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1890- 1967 




















London : J. M. DENT & SONS, Ltd. 
New York: E. P. DUTTON & CO. 


ESSAYS © ^■ 

©Some Otfier 


First Issue of this Edition . 1907 
Reprinted .... 1909, 1911, 19^4 

PR 2 9 74 


All rights reserved 


In treating of Shakspeare, said one of the best of Coleridge's 
critics, "he set the sun in heaven." The present volume, im- 
perfect record as it is, contains the greater substance of all that 
the most inspired English critic said, whether casually or 
deliberately, of the most inspired poet. Its contents are those of 
the two posthumous miscellanies of notes for lectures and reports 
of lectures, which were prepared by Henry Nelson Coleridge and 
his wife — Coleridge's daughter, Sarah — in 1836, and by Payne 
Collier in 1856. The first deals principally with the lectures 
given by Coleridge in 181 8, but it contains many notes and 
memoranda which belong equally to the earlier period. And 
one suspects Payne Collier's contribution of the 1811-12 lectures, 
although he was a less unreliable recorder than is usually sup- 
posed, to have been in some instances from the earlier publica- 
tion. Perhaps the best way to read in this double collection is to 
turn up first the Notes upon Shakspeare's plays—" Hamlet" for 
preference, in which Coleridge (who was himself an intellectual 
Hamlet) used to perfection the subtle mirror afforded by his own 
mind ; and then from that to work through the maze of his 
lectures and poetic homilies. It must be remembered that the 
whole book, as here constituted, is the tell-tale memorial of 
the Coleridge who was too indolent to make good his harvest. 
He had a magnificent intellect, a superb imagination, but no 
corresponding will-power. The consequence is that his lectures 
on Shakspeare were imperfectly prepared, often ill-delivered, and 
left in the end to the mercy of careless reporters. But to those 
who can discern the god in the cloud, these transcripts are of 
inestimable value. Intermittent flashes of creative criticism break 
continually through the misty envelope, and the brilliance is 
according to the assimilative or the refractive quality of the 
reader. For, as Coleridge quotes and says, "we are not all 
Mogul diamonds, to take the light." There are readers that are 

viii Editor's Introduction 

sponges, and others that are sand-glasses or strain-bags, who let 
the creative element escape, and retain only the dregs. There 
are plentiful dregs in these pages. 

A page ought to be added to enable us the better to realise 
Coleridge, the lecturer, as he appeared to his hearers and 

Byron, in one of his letters, says : " We are going in a party to 
hear the new Art of Poetry by the reformed schismatic." ^ This 
was toward the end of the course, which according to Crabb 
Robinson ended with eclat. " The room was crowded, and the 
lecture had several passages more than brilliant." This was after 
a very fluctuating success. At a December lecture, ostensibly 
on Romeo and Juliet, he is said to have " surpassed himself in the 
art of talking in a very interesting way without speaking at all on 
the subject announced." On the same occasion Charles Lamb 
whispered to his neighbour in the audience : " This is not 
much amiss. He promised a lecture on the Nurse in Romeo and 
Juliet, and he has given us instead one in the manner of the 
nurse." Four times in all were his hearers invited to a lecture on 
Romeo and Juliet, it seems ; and at least three times did he dis- 
appoint them. Instead of the expected discourse, " We have," said 
Crabb Robinson in a letter to Mrs Clarkson, " an immethodical 
rhapsody. . . . Yet I cannot but be charmed with their splendida 
vitia, and my chief displeasure is occasioned by my being forced 
to hear the strictures of persons infinitely below Coleridge, 
without any power of refuting or contradicting them." 

For this course of 1811-12, Coleridge did not write out his 
lectures, and they were nearly all delivered extemporaneously. 
The Morgans, with whom he was staying at the time, found it 
hard to get him to make any direct preparation. He would not 
look into his Shakspeare, although they purposely put it in his 
way, and an old MS. commonplace book seemb to have been his 
sole remembrancer. 

For the course of 18 18, he did, on his own declaration, 
make a more settled preparation, on an eclectic plan of his 

" During a course of lectures," he writes, " I faithfully employ 
all the intervening days in collecting and digesting the materials. 
The day of the lecture I devote to the consideration, what of the 

1 Crabb Robinson speaks of seeing Byron and Rogers at one of the lectures of this 
course. He says of Bryon : " He was wrapped up, but I recognised his club-foot, and 
indeed his countenance and general appearance." 

Editors Introduction ix 

mass before me is best fitted to answer the purpose of a lecture, 
that is, to keep the audience awake and interested during the 
delivery, and to leave a sting behind," that is, he explains, a 
wish to study the subject anew, in the light of a new principle. 
" I take far, far more pains," he adds, " than would go to the set 
composition of a lecture, both by varied reading and by medita- 
tion ; but for the words, illustrations, etc., I know almost as little 
as any one of the audience . . . what they will be five minutes 
before the lecture begins." 

The 1811-12 lectures were delivered in rooms in Crane Court, 
Fetter Lane, Fleet Street. The 18 18 course was held in rooms 
at Flower-de-Luce Court — "near the Temple," Gilman says ; but 
no doubt the Fleur-de-Hs Court, off Fetter Lane, is the actual 
place, Coleridge, it is well to note, gave some earlier courses of 
lectures in London ; one in 1806-7, at the Royal Institution, was 
" On the Principles of the Fine Arts" ; and in 1807-8, he actually 
began five courses of five lectures each on the English poets, of 
which only the first course, that on Shakspeare, was delivered. 
But this first course, and its date, are important, because of the 
old question of Coleridge's debt to Schlegel. Schlegel's lectures 
were given in 1808, as Mr. Ashe points out in this connection (in 
his interesting edition of Coleridge's Lectures which was pub- 
lished in 1883). Coleridge himself speaks of one London detached 
lecture of his, at the " Crown and Anchor," whose date was pro- 
bably 1817 or 1818. 

Other lectures were given in 1813 at the Surrey Institution, on 
Belles Lettres ; and in Bristol, at the great room of the " White 
Lion," in 1813-14. After some characteristic delays and dis- 
appointments, these Bristol lectures gave immense pleasure to the 
few elect who went to them. Cottle describes them as of a 
conversational character, and says, " The attention of his hearers 
never flagged, and his large dark eyes, and his countenance, in 
an excited state, glowing with intellect, predisposed his audience 
in his favour." We gather from other references that they did 
not bring him much gold, greatly as he and his unlucky family 
needed it. The London course of 181 8 ends his career as a 
lecturer ; and if it was a rather more profitable adventure, it was 
hardly one to reinstate his poor fortunes. He was then a man of 
forty-six. In 1834 he died. 

Editor's Introduction 


Greek Prize Ode on the Slave Trade, Cambridge, 1792. Monody on 
the Death of Chatterton (first draft), 1 794. The Fall of Robespierre : An 
Historic Drama (Coleridge and Southey), 1794. Contributions to The 
Cambridge Intelligencer and The Morning Chronicle, 1 794- 179 5. The 
Watchman, 1796. Poems on Various Subjects, 1796, The Vision of the 
Maid of Orleans {^owihty^s Joan of Arc), republished as The Destiny of 
Nations, 1796, Ode on the Departing Year, 1 796. Contributions to 
The Monthly Magazine, 1 796- 1 797. Fears in Solitude; France, an 
Ode ; Frost at Midnight, 1 798. Lyrical Ballads, 1798 (containing " The 
Ancient Mariner " and other poems). Contributions to The Morning Post, 
1798-1802. Poems in Annual Anthology, 1799-1800. Wallenstein {ixova. 
the German of Schiller), 1800. Contributions in Prose and Verse to The 
Courier, 1807-1811. The Friend, 1 June, 1809, to 15 March, 1 8 ID. 
Contributions to Southey's Omniana, 1812. Remorse, 181 3 (remodelled 
from Osorio, written in 1797 ; pub. 1873). Essays on the Fine Arts 
(Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 1814). Christabel ; Kubla Khan ; Pains 
of Sleep, 1816 (first and second parts of Christabel, written 1797 and 1800). 
The States7nan's Manual; or. The Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill 
and Foresight, 1816. Sibylline Leaves, 1817. Zapolya: A Christmas 
Tale, 1817. Biographia Literaria, 1817. On Method {Esssiy forming 
the General Introduction to Encyclopcedia Metropolitana, 18 17- 18 18). 
Contributions to Blackwood' s Magazine, 1819-1822. Aids to Reflection, 
1825. On the Constitution of the Church and State, 1830. 

A Moral and Political Lecture, 1795. Condones ad Populam ; or, 
Addresses to the People, 1795. The Plot Discovered : An Address to the 
People, 1795. 

First Collected Edition of Poems and Dramas, 1828. 


Specimens of his Table Talk (Edited by H. N. Coleridge), 1835. 
Letters, Conversations, atid Recollections of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
(Edited by T. Allsop), 1836, 58, 64. Literary Remains (Edited by H. 
N. Coleridge), 1836-1839. Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit (Edited 
by H. N. Coleridge), 1840. Hints towards the Formation of a more 
Comprehensive Theory of Life (Edited by S. B. Watson), 1848. Notes 
and Lectures upon Shakspeare and some of the Old Dramatists (Edited by 

Editors Introduction xi 

Sara Coleridge), 1849. Essays on his own Times (Edited by S. Cole- 
ridge), 3 vols., 1850. Notes upon English Divines (Edited by Derwent 
Coleridge), 1853. Notes: Theological, Political^ and Miscellaneous 
(Edited by D. Coleridge), 1853. Lectures on Shakespeare, from Notes by 
J. P. Collier, 1856. Poetical and Dramatic Works, founded on the 
Author's latest edition of 1834 (Edited by R. H. Shepherd), 4 vols., 
London and Boston, 1 877-1 881. Co7nplete Works (Edited by Professor 
Shedd), 1884. Miscellanies: ^Esthetic and Literary {Edited hy T. Ashe), 
1885. The Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Edited by James 
Dyke Campbell), 1893. Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1785-1S34 
(Edited by E. H. Coleridge), 2 vols., 1895. 


Extract from a Letter written by Mr. Coleridge, in February 

1818, to a Gentleman who attended the Course of Lectures 

given in the Spring of that Year 

Extract from a Letter to J. Biiton, Esq 

Shakspeare, with introductory matter on poetry, the 

drama, and the stage 

Definition of Poetry .... 

Greek Drama ..... 

Progress of the Drama 

The Drama generally, and Public Taste 

Shakspeare, a Poet generally 

Shakspeare' s Judgment equal to his Genius 

Recapitulation, and Summary of the Characteristics of 
Shakspeare' s Dramas ..... 

Outline of an Introductory Lecture upon Shakspeare 

Order of Shakspeare' s Plays 

Notes on the Tempest 

Love's Labour's Lost 

Midsummer Night's Dream 

Comedy of Errors 

As You Like It 

Twelfth Night 

All's Well that Ends Well 

Merry Wives of Windsor 

Measure for Measure 


Titus Andronicus 

Troilus and Cressida 


Julius Cassar 

Antony and Cleopatra 

Timon of Athens 

Romeo and Juliet 

xiv Contents 

Shakspeare — continued : — 

Shakspeare's English Historical Plays 

King John 

Richard 11. 

Henry IV. Part I. 

Henry IV. Part II. 

Henry V. 

Henry VI. Part I. 

Richard III. 


Hamlet . 

Notes on Macbeth 

Notes on the Winter's Tale 

Notes on Othello 
Notes on Ben Jonson 

Whalley's Preface 

Whalley's Life of Jonson 

Every Man out of His Humour 


Fall of Sejanus 

Volpone . 

Epicaene . 

The Alchemist 

Catiline's Conspiracy 

Bartholomew Fair 

The Devn is an Ass 

The Staple of News 

The New Inn . 
Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher 

Harris's Commendatory Poem on Fletcher 

Life of Fletcher in Stockdale's Edition, i^ 

Maid's Tragedy 

A King and no King . 

The Scornful La4y . 
The Custom of the Country 
The Elder Brother . 
The Spanish Curate . 
Wit Without Money . 
The Humorous Lieutenant 



Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher — continued: — page 

The ISlad Lover ..,..,. 200 

The Loyal Subject 

. 200 

Rule a Wife and have a Wife 


The Laws of Candy . 

. 201 

The Little French Lawyer . 

. 202 

Valentin ian 

. 202 

Rollo . . . 

• 20s 

The Wildgoose Chase 

. 206 

A Wife for a Month . 

. 207 

The Pilgrim 

. 207 

The Queen of Corinth 

. 207 

The Noble Gentleman 

. 208 

The Coronation 

. 209 

Wit at Several Weapons . 

. 209 

The Fair Maid of the Inn . 

. 210 

The Two Noble Kinsmen . 

. 211 

The Woman Hater . 

. 212 


Prospectus ......... 

Lecture L General Character of the Gothic Mind in the 
Middle Ages ...... 

n. General Character of the Gothic Literature and 


III. The Troubadours, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Pulci, 
Chaucer, Spenser ..... 
VII. Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Mas- 
singer. Notes on Massinger 
VIII. Don Quixote, Cervantes ..... 
IX. On the Distinctions of the Witty, the Droll, the 
Odd, and the Humorous ; the Nature and Con- 
stituents of Humour ; Rabelais, Swift, Sterne 
X. Donne, Dante, Milton, Paradise Lost 
XI. Asiatic and Greek Mythologies, Robinson Crusoe, 

Use of works of Imagination in Education 
XII. Dreams, Apparitions, Alchemists, Personality of 
the Evil Being, Bodily Identity . 

XIII. On Poesy or Art 

XIV. On Style 











On the Prometheus of iEschylus .... 

Summary of an Essay on the fundamental position of 

Mysteries in Relation to Greek Tragedy 
Fragment of an Essay on Taste. 1810 
Fragment of an Essay on Beauty. 18 18 
Notes on Chapman's Homer. Extract of a Letter sent with 

the Volume. 1807 . 
Note in Casaubon's Persius. 1807 
Notes on Barclay's Argenis. 1803 
Notes on Chalmers's Life of Samuel Daniel 
Bishop Corbet .... 

Notes on Selden's Table Talk 
Notes on Tom Jones 
Another set of Notes on Tom Jones . 
Jonathan Wild .... 

Notes on Junius. 1807 . 
Wonderfulness of Prose . 

Notes on Herbert's Temple and Harvey's Synagogue 
Extract from a Letter of S. T. Coleridge to W. Collins, R.A. 

Printed in the Life of Collins by his Son. Vol. i. . 
Notes on Mathias' Edition of Gray. On a distant prospect 

Eton College ....... 

Barry Cornwall ....... 

On the Mode of Studying Kant. Extract from a Letter of 

Mr. Coleridge to J. Gooden, Esq. 
Notes on the Palingenesien of Jean Paul 











The First Lecture . 
The Second Lecture 
The Sixth Lecture . 
The Seventh Lecture 
The Eighth Lecture 
The Ninth Lecture 
The Twelfth Lecture 









Mr. Coleridge by his will, dated in September, 1829, 
authorized his executor, if he should think it expedient, 
to publish any of the notes or writing made by him 
(Mr. C.) in his books, or any other of his manuscripts or 
writings, or any letters which should thereafter be collected 
from, or suppUed by, his friends or correspondents. 
Agreeably to this authority, an arrangement was made, 
under the superintendence of Mr. Green, for the collection 
of Coleridge's Uterary remains ; and at the same time the 
preparation for the press of such part of the materials as 
should consist of criticism and general literature, was 
entrusted to the care of the present Editor. The volumes 
now offered to the public are the first results of that 
arrangement. They must in any case stand in need of 
much indulgence from the ingenuous reader ; — multa 
sunt condonanda in opere postumo ; but a short state- 
ment of the difficulties attending the compilation may 
serve to explain some apparent anomalies, and to preclude 
some unnecessary censure. 

The materials were fragmentary in the extreme — 
Sibylline leaves ; — notes of the lecturer, memoranda of 
the investigator, out-pourings of the solitary and self- 
communing student. The fear of the press was not in 


4 Preface 

them. Numerous as they were, too, they came to light, 
or were communicated, at different times, before and 
after the printing was commenced ; and the dates, the 
occasions, and the references, in most instances remained 
to be discovered or conjectured. To give to such materials 
method and continuity, as far as might be, — to set them 
forth in the least disadvantageous manner which the 
circumstances would permit, — was a delicate and per- 
plexing task ; and the Editor is painfully sensible that 
he could bring few qualifications for the undertaking, but 
such as were involved in a many years' intercourse with 
the author himself, a patient study of his writings, a 
reverential admiration of his genius, and an affectionate 
desire to help in extending its beneficial influence. 

The contents of these volumes are drawn from a portion 
only of the manuscripts entrusted to the Editor : the 
remainder of the collection, which, under favourable 
circumstances, he hopes may hereafter see the light, is at 
least of equal value with what is now presented to the 
reader as a sample. In perusing the following pages, the 
reader will, in a few instances, meet with disquisitions of 
a transcendental character, which, as a general rule, 
have been avoided : the truth is, that they were sometimes 
found so indissolubly intertwined with the more popular 
matter which preceded and followed, as to make separa- 
tion impracticable. There are very many to whom no 
apology will be necessary in this respect ; and the Editor 
only adverts to it for the purpose of obviating, as far as 
may be, the possible complaint of the more general reader. 
But there is another point to which, taught by past 
experience, he attaches more importance, and as to 
which, therefore, he ventures to put in a more express 

Preface 5 

and particular caution. In many of the books and papers, 
which have been used in the compilation of these volumes, 
passages from other writers, noted down by Mr. Coleridge 
as in some way remarkable, were mixed up with his own 
comments on such passages, or with his reflections on 
other subjects, in a manner very embarrassing to the eye 
of a third person undertaking to select the original matter, 
after the lapse of several years. The Editor need not say 
that he has not knowingly admitted any thing that was 
not genuine, without an express declaration as in Vol. I. 
p. I ; 1 and in another instance. Vol. II. p. 379,^ he has 
intimated his own suspicion ; but, besides these, it is 
possible that some cases of mistake in this respect may 
have occurred. There may be one or two passages — they 
cannot well be more — printed in these volumes, which 
belong to other writers ; and if such there be, the Editor 
can only plead in excuse, that the work has been prepared 
by him amidst many distractions, and hope that, in this 
instance at least, no ungenerous use will be made of such 
a circumstance to the disadvantage of the author, and 
that persons of greater reading or more retentive memories 
than the Editor, who may discover any such passages, 
will do him the favour to communicate the fact. 

To those who have been kind enough to communicate 
books and manuscripts for the purpose of the present 
publication, the Editor and, through him, Mr. Coleridge's 
executor return their grateful thanks. In most cases a 
specific acknowledgment has been made. But, above 
and independently of all others, it is to Mr. and Mrs. 

1 The Editor is here speaking of his note to the Fall of Robespierre, published in the 
former Vol. i. of the Literary Remains^ shewing that th«: second and third acts were 
by Mr. Southey. 

3 This reference is to his remark on an extract from Crashaw's //>'«/.*« to the name of 
Jesus, printed in Vol. ii. of the Lit. Rem. as first published. 

6 Preface 

Gillman, and to Mr. Green himself, that the pubUc are 
indebted for the preservation and use of the principal 
part of the contents of these volumes. The claims of 
those respected individuals on the gratitude of the friends 
and admirers of Coleridge and his works are already well 
known, and in due season those claims will receive addi- 
tional confirmation. 

With these remarks, sincerely conscious of his own 
inadequate execution of the task assigned to him, yet 
confident withal of the general worth of the contents of 
the following pages — the Editor commits the reliques of 
a great man to the indulgent consideration of the Public. 

Lincoln's Inn, 
August II, 1836. 


Extract from a Letter written by Mr. Coleridge, in February, 
1818, to a gentleman who attended the course of Lectures 
given in the spring of that year. 

My next Friday's lecture will, if I do not grossly flatter- 
blind myself, be interesting, and the points of view not 
only original, but new to the audience. I make this 
distinction, because sixteen or rather seventeen years 
ago, I delivered eighteen lectures on Shakspeare, at the 
Royal Institution ; three-fourths of which appeared at 
that time startling paradoxes, although they have since 
been adopted even by men, who then made use of them 
as proofs of my flighty and paradoxical turn of mind ; 
all to prove that Shakspeare' s judgment was, if possible, 
still more wonderful than his genius ; or rather, that 
the contradistinction itself between judgment and genius 
rested on an utterly false theory. This, and its proofs 
and grounds have been — I should not have said adopted, 
but produced as their own legitimate children by some, 
and by others the merit of them attributed to a foreign 
writer, whose lectures were not given orally till two years 
after mine, rather than to their countryman ; though 
I dare appeal to the most adequate judges, as Sir George 
Beaumont, the Bishop of Durham, Mr. Sotheby, and 
afterwards to Mr. Rogers and Lord Byron, whether there 
is one single principle in Schlegel's work (which is not 
an admitted drawback from its merits), that was not 
established and applied in detafl by me. Plutarch tells 
us, that egotism is a venial fault in the unfortunate, and 
justifiable in the calumniated, &c. 

8 Letter 

Extract from a Letter to J. Briton, Esq. 

28th Feb., 18 19, Highgate. 

Dear Sir, — First permit me to remove a very natural, 
indeed almost inevitable, mistake, relative to my lectures : 
namely, that I have them, or that the lectures of one 
place or season are in any way repeated in another. So 
far from it, that on any point that I had ever studied 
(and on no other should I dare discourse — I mean, that 
I would not lecture on any subject for which I had to 
acquire the main knowledge, even though a month's or 
three months' previous time were allowed me ; on no 
subject that had not employed my thoughts for a large 
portion of my life since earliest manhood, free of all 
outward and particular purpose) — on any point within 
my habit of thought, I should greatly prefer a subject 
I had never lectured on, to one which I had repeatedly 
given ; and those who have attended me for any two 
seasons successively will bear witness, that the lecture 
given at the London Philosophical Society, on the Romeo 
and Juliet, for instance, was as different from that given 
at the Crown and Anchor, as if they had been by two 
individuals who, without any communication with each 
other, had only mastered the same principles of philo- 
sophic criticism. This was most strikingly evidenced 
in the coincidence between my lectures and those of 
Schlegel ; such, and so close, that it was fortunate for 
my moral reputation that I had not only from five to 
seven hundred ear witnesses that the passages had been 
given by me at the Royal Institution two years before 
Schlegel commenced his lectures at Vienna, but that 
notes had been taken of these by several men and ladies 
of high rank. The fact is this ; during a course of 
lectures, I faithfully employ all the intervening days in 
collecting and digesting the materials, whether I have 
or have not lectured on the same subject before, making 
no difference. The day of the lecture, till the hour of 
commencement, I devote to the consideration, what of 
the mass before me is best fitted to answer the purposes 
of a lecture, that is, to keep the audience awake and 
interested during the dehvery, and to leave a sting behind, 
that is, a disposition to study the subject anew, under 

Definition of Poetry 9 

the light of a new principle. Several times, however, 
partly from apprehension respecting my health and 
animal spirits, partly from the wish to possess copies 
that might afterwards be marketable among the publishers, 
I have previously written the lecture ; but before I had 
proceeded twenty minutes, I have been obliged to push 
the MS. away, and give the subject a new turn. Nay, 
this was so notorious, that many of my auditors used 
to threaten me, when they saw any number of written 
papers upon my desk, to steal them away ; declaring 
they never felt so secure of a good lecture as when they 
perceived that I had not a single scrap of writing before 
me. I take far, far more pains than would go to the 
set composition of a lecture, both by varied reading 
and by meditation ; but for the words, illustrations, 
&c., I know almost as little as any one of the audience 
(that is, those of any thing like the same education 
with myself) what they will be five minutes before the 
lecture begins. Such is my way, for such is my nature ; 
and in attempting any other, I should only torment 
myself in order to disappoint my auditors — torment 
myself during the delivery, I mean ; for in all other 
respects it would be a much shorter and easier task to 
deliver them from writing. I am anxious to preclude 
any semblance of affectation ; and have therefore troubled 
you with this lengthy preface before I have the hardihood 
to assure you, that you might as well ask me what my 
dreams were in the year 1814, as what my course of 
lectures was at the Surrey Institution. Fuimus Troes. 


With introductory matter on Poetry, the Drama, and 
the Stage. 


Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose, but to 
science. Poetry is opposed to science, and prose to 
metre. The proper and immediate object of science 
is the acquirement, or communication, of truth; the 
proper and immediate Oioject of poetry is the 50m- 

lo Definition of Poetry 

munication of immediate pleasure. This definition 
is useful ; but as it would include novels and other 
works of fiction, which yet we do not call poems, 
there must be some additional character by which poetry 
is not only divided from opposites, but Hkewise dis- 
tinguished from disparate, though similar, modes of 
composition. Now how is this to be effected ? In 
animated prose, the beauties of nature, and the passions 
and accidents of human nature, are often expressed in 
that natural language which the contemplation of them 
would suggest to a pure and benevolent mind ; yet 
still neither we nor the writers call such a work a poem, 
though no work could deserve that name which did 
not include all this, together with something else. What 
is this ? It is that pleasurable emotion, that peculiar 
state and degree of excitement, which arises in the poet 
himself in the act of composition ; — and in order to under- 
stand this, we must combine a more than ordinary 
sympathy with the objects, emotions, or incidents con- 
templated by the poet, consequent on a more than 
common sensibility, with a more than ordinary activity 
of the mind in respect of the fancy and the irnaginatipn. 
Hence is produced a more viviO^eflection of the truths 
of nature and of the human heart, united with a constant 
activity modifying and correcting these truths by that 
sort of pleasurable emotion, which the exertion of all 
our faculties gives in a certain degree ; but which can 
only be felt in perfection under the fuU play of those 
powers of mind, which are spontaneous rather than 
voluntary, and in which the effort required bears no 
proportion to the activity enjoyed. This is the state 
which permits the production of a highly pleasurable 
whole, of which each part shall also communicate for 
itself a distinct and conscious pleasure ; and hjgpce^ arises 
the definition, which I trust is now inteUigiBle, that 
poetry, or rather a poem, is a species of composition, 
opposed to science, as having intellectual pleasure for 
its object, and as attaining its end by the use of language 
natural to us in a state of excitement, — but distinguished 
from other species of composition, not excluded by the 
former criterion, by permitting a pleasure from the 
whole consistent with a consciousness of pleasure from 
the component parts ; — and the perfection of which 

Definition of Poetry ii 

is, to communicate from each part the greatest immediate 
pleasure compatible with the largest sum of pleasure 
on the whole. This, of course, will vary with the different 
modes of poetry ; — and that splendour of particular 
lines, which would be worthy of admiration in an im- 
passioned elegy, or a short indignant satire, would be 
a blemish and proof of vile taste in a tragedy or an epic 

It is remarkable, by the way, that Milton in three 
incidental words has implied all which for the purposes 
of more distinct apprehension, which at first must be 
slow-paced in order to be distinct, I have endeavoured 
to develope in a precise and strictly adequate definition. 
Speaking of poetry, he says, as in a parenthesis, " which 
is simple, sensuous, passionate." How awful is the 
power of words ! — fearful often in their consequences 
when merely felt, not understood ; but most awful 
when both felt and understood ! — Had these three words 
only been properly understood by, and present in the 
minds of, general readers, not only almost a library 
of false poetry would have been either precluded or 
still-born, but, what is of more consequence, works truly 
excellent and capable of enlarging the understanding, 
warming and purifying the heart, and placing in the centre 
of the whole being the germs of noble and manlike 
actions, would have been the common diet of the intellect 
instead. For the first condition, simplicity, — while, on the 
one hand, it distinguishes poetry from the arduous pro- 
cesses of science, labouring towards an end not yet arrived 
at, and supposes a smooth and finished road, on which 
the reader is to walk onward easily, with streams murmur- 
ing by his side, and trees and flowers and human dwellings 
to make his journey as delightful as the object of it is 
desirable, instead of having to toil with the pioneers 
and painfully make the road on which .others are to 
travel, — precludes, on the other hand, every affectation 
and morbid peculiarity ; — the second condition, sensu- 
ousness, insures that framework of objectivity, that 
definiteness and articulation of imagery, and that 
modification of the images themselves, without which 
poetry becomes flattened into mere didactics of practice, 
or evaporated into a hazy, unthoughtful, day-dream- 
ing ; and the third condition, passion, provides that 

12 Definition of Poetry 

neither thought nor imagery shall be simply objective, 
but that the passio vera of humanity shall warm and 
animate both. 

To return, however, to the previous definition, this 
most general and distinctive character of a poem originates 
in the poetic genius itself ; and though it comprises 
whatever can with any propriety be called a poem (unless 
that word be a mere lazy synonyme for a composition 
in metre,) it yet becomes a just, and not merely dis- 
criminative, but full and adequate, definition of poetry 
in its highest and most pecuHar sense, only so far as 
the distinction still results from the poetic genius, which 
sustains and modifies the emotions, thoughts, and vivid 
representations of the poem by the energy without effort 
of the poet's own mind, — by the spontaneous activity 
of his imagination and fancy, and by whatever else with 
these reveals itself in the balancing and reconciling of 
opposite or discordant qualities, sameness with difference, 
a sense of novelty and freshness with old or customary 
objects, a more than usual state of emotion with more 
than usual order, self-possession and judgment with 
enthusiasm and vehement feeling, — and which, while it 
blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, 
still subordinates art to nature, the manner to the matter, 
and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with 
the images, passions, characters, and incidents of the 
poem : — 

Doubtless, this could not be, but that she turns 
Bodies to spirit by sublimation strange, 
As fire converts to fire the things it burns — 
As we our food into our nature change ! 

From their gross matter she abstracts their forms, 
And draws a kind of quintessence from things, 
Which to her proper nature she transforms 
To bear them light on her celestial wings ! 

Thus doth she, when from individual states 
She doth abstract the universal kinds, 
Which then reclothed in divers names and fates 
Steal access thro' our senses to our minds} 

1 Sir John Davies on the Immortality of the Soul, sect. iv. The words and lines in 
italics are substituted to apply these verses to the poetic genius. The greater part of 
ihis latter paragraph may be found adopted, with some alterations, in the Biographia 
Literaria, vol. ii. c. 14 ; but I have thought it better in this instance and some 

Greek Drama 13 


It is truly singular that Plato, — whose philosophy and 
religion were but exotic at home, and a mere opposition 
to the finite in all things, genuine prophet and anticipator 
as he was of the Protestant Christian aera, — should have 
given in his Dialogue of the Banquet, a justification of 
our Shakspeare. For he relates that, when all the 
other guests had either dispersed or fallen asleep, Socrates 
only, together with Aristophanes and Agathon, remained 
awake, and that, while he continued to drink with them 
out of a large goblet, he compelled them, though most 
reluctantly, to admit that it was the business of one 
and the same genius to excel in tragic and comic poetry, 
or that the tragic poet ought, at the same time, to contain 
within himself the powers of comedy. ^ Now, as this 
was directly repugnant to the entire theory of the ancient 
critics, and contrary to all their experience, it is evident 
that Plato must have fixed the eye of his contemplation 
on the innermost essentials of the drama, abstracted 
from the forms of age or country. In another passage 
he even adds the reason, namely, that opposites illustrate 
each other's nature, and in their struggle draw forth 
the strength of the combatants, and display the conqueror 
as sovereign even on the territories of the rival power. 

Nothing can more forcibly exemplify the separative 
spirit of the Greek arts than their comedy as opposed 
to their tragedy. But as the immediate struggle of 
contraries supposes an arena common to both, so both 
were alike ideal ; that is, the comedy of Aristophanes 
rose to as great a distance above the ludicrous of real 
life, as the tragedy of Sophocles above its tragic events 
and passions, — and it is in this one point, of absolute 

others, to run the chance of bringing a few passages twice over to the recollection of 
the reader, than to weaken the force of the original argument by breaking the 
connection. Ed. 

^ €^€yp6/jL€vos S^ Idelv rods fiiv dWovs KadevoofTas Kal olxofi^povs, 

'Ayddoifa 5^ Kal ' KpLaT0(]v koI Sw/cpdrT? Irt ixbvovs iyp'/jyopevai, Kal 
irlveLV eK (pidXrjs fj.€yd\7}$ eTride^La. rbv oZv Sw/cparT; avrots diaXeyecrdai,' 
Kal TO. fxkv aXKa 6 'ApLarddTj/jios ovk ^(prj fjie/JLvija dai tov \byov' (oi^re ydp e^ 
dpxv^ Trapayeviadai, virovvaTa^eiv re) rb p.kvTOL KecpdXaiov ^(prj, irpoaavay' 
Ka^eLu rbv liiOKparr] 6jj.oKoyeiy avrodi tov avTov dv8p6s e'Cvat KU3fi(i}diav Kal 
TpayuSiav iiriaraadaL Troieiv, Kal Toy t^x^V Tpayi^doiroLov tvra, Kal Koofuf- 
ooTTotoV elvai.. Symp. sub fine. 

14 Greek Drama 

ideality, that the comedy of Shakspeare and the old 
comedy of Athens coincide. In this also alone did the 
Greek tragedy and comedy unite ; in every thing else 
they were exactly opposed to each other. Tragedy 
is poetry in its deepest earnest ; comedy is poetry in 
unlimited jest. Earnestness consists in the direction 
and convergence of all the powers of the soul to one 
aim, and in the voluntary restraint of its activity in 
consequence ; the opposite, therefore, lies in the apparent 
abandonment of all definite aim or end, and in the removal 
of all bounds in the exercise of the mind, — attaining its 
real end, as an entire contrast, most perfectly, the greater 
the display is of intellectual wealth squandered in the 
wantonness of sport without an object, and the more 
abundant the life and vivacity in the creations of the 
arbitrary ¥/ill. 

The later comedy, even where it was really comic, 
was doubtless likewise more comic, the more free it 
appeared from any fixed aim. Misunderstandings of 
intention, fmitless struggles of absurd passion, contra- 
dictions of temper, and laughable situations there were ; 
but still the form of the representation itself was serious ; 
it proceeded as much according to settled laws, and used 
as much the same means of art, though to a different 
purpose, as the regular tragedy itself. But in the old 
comedy the very form itself is whimsical ; the whole 
work is one great jest, comprehending a world of jests 
within it, among which each maintains its own place 
without seeming to concern itself as to the relation in 
which it may stand to its fellows. In short, in Sophocles, 
the constitution of tragedy is monarchical, but such as 
it existed in elder Greece, limited by laws, and therefore 
the more venerable, — all the parts adapting and sub- 
mitting themselves to the majesty of the heroic sceptre : 
— in Aristophanes, comedy, on the contrary, is poetry 
in its most democratic form, and it is a fundamental 
principle with it, rather to risk all the confusion of anarchy, 
than to destroy the independence and privileges of its 
individual constituents, — place, verse, characters, even 
single thoughts, conceits, and allusions, each turning 
on the pivot of its own free will. 

The tragic poet idealizes his characters by giving to 
the spiritual part of our nature a more decided prepon- 

Greek Drama 15 

derance over the animal cravings and impulses, than 
is met with in real life : the comic poet idealizes his 
characters by making the animal the governing power, 
and the intellectual the mere instrument. But as tragedy 
is not a collection of virtues and perfections, but takes 
care only that the vices and imperfections shall spring 
from the passions, errors, and prejudices which arise 
out of the soul ; — so neither is comedy a mere crowd 
of vices and follies, but whatever qualities it represents, 
even though they are in a certain sense amiable, it still 
displays them as having their origin in some dependence 
on our lower nature, accompanied with a defect in true 
freedom of spirit and self-subsistence, and subject to 
that unconnection by contradictions of the inward being, 
to which all folly is owing. 

The ideal of earnest poetry consists in the union and 
harmonious melting down, and fusion of the sensual 
into the spiritual, — of man as an animal into man as a 
power of reason and self-government. And this we 
have represented to us most clearly in the plastic art, 
or statuary ; where the perfection of outward form is 
a symbol of the perfection of an inward idea ; where 
the body is wholly penetrated by the soul, and spiritualized 
even to a state of glory, and like a transparent substance, 
the matter, in its own nature darkness, becomes alto- 
gether a vehicle and fixture of light, a means of developing 
its beauties, and unfolding its wealth of various colours 
without disturbing its unity, or causing a division of the 
parts. The sportive ideal, on the contrary, consists in 
the perfect harmony and concord of the higher nature 
with the animal, as with its ruHng principle and its acknow- 
ledged regent. The understanding and practical reason 
are represented as the willing slaves of the senses and 
appetites, and of the passions arising out of them. Hence 
we may admit the appropriateness to the old comedy, 
as a work of defined art, of allusions and descriptions, 
which morality can never justify, and, only with reference 
to the author himself, and only as being the effect or 
rather the cause of the circumstances in which he wrote, 
can consent even to palliate. 

The old comedy rose to its perfection in Aristophanes, 
and in him also it died with the freedom of Greece. Then 
arose a species of drama, more fitly called, dramatic 

1 6 Greek Drama 

entertainment than comedy, but of which, nevertheless, 
our modem comedy (Shakspeare's altogether excepted) 
is the genuine descendant. Euripides had already 
brought tragedy lower down and by many steps nearer 
to the real world than his predecessors had ever done, 
and the passionate admiration which Menander and 
Philemon expressed for him, and their open avowals 
that he was their great master, entitle us to consider 
their dramas as of a middle species, between tragedy 
and comedy, — not the tragi-comedy, or thing of hetero- 
geneous parts, but a complete whole, founded on principles 
of its own. Throughout we find the drama of Menander 
distinguishing itself from tragedy, but not, as the genuine 
old comedy, contrasting with, and opposing it. Tragedy, 
indeed, carried the thoughts into the mythologic world, 
in order to raise the emotions, the fears, and the hopes, 
which convince the inmost heart that their final cause 
is not to be discovered in the hmits of mere mortal life, 
and force us into a presentiment, however dim, of a 
state in which those struggles of inward free will with 
outward necessity, which form the true subject of the 
tragedian, shall be reconciled and solved ; — the enter- 
tainment or new comedy, on the other hand, remained 
within the circle of experience. Instead of the tragic 
destiny, it introduced the power of chance ; even in 
the few fragments of Menander and Philemon now re- 
maining to us, we find many exclamations and reflections 
concerning chance and fortune, as in the tragic poets 
concerning destiny. In tragedy, the moral law, either 
as obeyed or violated, above all consequences — its own 
maintenance or violation constituting the most important 
of all consequences — forms the ground ; the new comedy, 
and our modern comedy in general, (Shakspeare excepted 
as before) lies in prudence or imprudence, enlightened 
or misled self-love. The whole moral system of the 
entertainment exactly like that of fable, consists in 
rules of prudence, with an exquisite conciseness, and 
at the same time an exhaustive fulness of sense. An old 
critic said that tragedy was the flight or elevation of life, 
comed}' (that of Menander) its arrangement or ordonnance. 
Add to these features a portrait-like truth of character, 
— not so far indeed as that a bona fide individual should 
be described or imagined, but yet so that the features 

Greek Drama 17 

which give interest and permanence to the class should 
be individualized. The old tragedy moved in an ideal 
world, — the old comedy in a fantastic world. As the 
entertainment, or new comedy, restrained the creative 
activity both of the fancy and the imagination, it in- 
demnified the understanding in appealing to the judgment 
for the probability of the scenes represented. The 
ancients themselves acknowledged the new comedy as 
an exact copy of real life. The grammarian, Aristophanes, 
somewhat affectedly exclaimed : — " O Life and Menander ! 
which of you two imitated the other ? " In short the 
form of this species of drama was poetry, the stuff or 
matter was prose. It was prose rendered delightful by 
the blandishments and measured motions of the muse. 
Yet even this was not universal. The mimes of Sophron, 
so passionately admired by Plato, were written in prose, 
and were scenes out of real life conducted in dialogue. 
The exquisite Feast of Adonis ('2vpaxoUiai Jj *A6wi//a^oL»<ra/) 
in Theocritus, we are told, with some others of his 
eclogues, were close imitations of certain mimes of Sophron 
— free translations of the prose into hexameters. 

It will not be improper, in this place, to make a few 
remarks on the remarkable character and functions of 
the chorus in the Greek tragic drama. 

The chorus entered from below, close by the orchestra, 
and there, pacing to and fro during the choral odes, 
performed their solemn measured dance. In the centre 
of the orchestra, directly over against the middle of the 
scene, there stood an elevation with steps in the shape of 
a large altar, as high as the boards of the logeion or move- 
able stage. This elevation was named the thymele, 
{^vfxsXr,) and served to recall the origin and original 
purpose of the chorus, as an altar-song in honour of 
the presiding deity. Here, and on these steps the persons 
of the chorus sate collectively, when they were not sing- 
ing ; attending to the dialogue as spectators, and acting 
as (what in truth they were) the ideal representatives 
of the real audience, and of the poet himself in his own 
character, assuming the supposed impressions made by 
the drama, in order to direct and rule them. But when 
the chorus itself formed part of the dialogue, then the 
leader of the band, the foreman or coryphceus, ascended, 
as some think, the level summit of the thymele in order 

1 8 Greek Drama 

to command the stage, or, perhaps, the whole chorus 
advanced to the front of the orchestra, and thus put 
themselves in ideal connection, as it were, with the 
dramatis personce there acting. This thymele was in the 
centre of the whole edifice, all the measurements were 
calculated, and the semicircle of the amphitheatre was 
drawn, from this point. It had a double use, a twofold 
purpose ; it constantly reminded the spectators of the 
origin of tragedy as a religious service, and declared 
itself as the ideal representative of the audience by having 
its place exactly in the point, to which all the radii from 
the different seats or benches converged. 

In this double character, as constituent parts, and 
yet at the same time as spectators, of the drama, the 
chorus could not but tend to enforce the unity of place ; 
— not on the score of any supposed improbability, which 
the understanding or common sense might detect in a 
change of place ; — but because the senses themselves 
put it out of the power of any imagination to conceive 
a place coming to, and going away from the persons, 
instead of the persons changing their place. Yet there 
are instances, in which, during the silence of the chorus, 
the poets have hazarded this by a change in that part 
of the scenery which represented the more distant objects 
to the eye of the spectator — a demonstrative proof, that 
this alternately extolled and ridiculed unity (as ignorantly 
ridiculed as extolled) was grounded on no essential prin- 
ciple of reason, but arose out of circumstances which 
the poet could not remove, and therefore took up into 
the form of the drama, and co-organised it with all the 
other parts into a living whole. 

The Greek tragedy may rather be compared to our 
serious opera than to the tragedies of Shakspeare ; never- 
theless, the difference is far greater than the likeness. 
In the opera aU is subordinated to the music, the dresses 
and the scenery ; — the poetry is a mere vehicle for articu- 
lation, and as little pleasure is lost by ignorance of the 
Itahan language, so is little gained by the knowledge 
of it. But in the Greek drama all was but as instruments 
and accessaries to the poetry ; and hence we should 
form a better notion of the choral music from the solemn 
hymns and psalms of austere church music than from 
any species of theatrical singing. A single flute or pipe 

Greek Drama 19 

v/as the ordinary accompaniment ; and it is not to be 
supposed, that any display of musical power was allowed 
to obscure the distinct hearing of the words. On the 
contrary, the evident purpose was to render the words 
more audible, and to secure by the elevations and pauses 
greater facility of understanding the poetry. For the 
choral songs are, and ever must have been, the most 
difficult part of the tragedy ; there occur in them the 
most involved verbal compounds, the newest expressions, 
the boldest images, the most recondite allusions. Is it 
credible that the poets would, one and all, have been 
thus prodigal of the stores of art and genius, if they had 
known that in the representation the whole must have 
been lost to the audience, — at a time too, when the means 
of after publication were so difficult and expensive, and the 
copies of their works so slowly and narrowly circulated ? 

The masks also must be considered — their vast variety 
and admirable workmanship. Of this we retain proof 
by the marble masks which represented them ; but to 
this in the real mask we must add the thinness of the 
substance and the exquisite fitting on to the head of the 
actor; so that not only were the very eyes painted 
with a single opening left for the pupil of the actor's 
eye, but in some instances, even the iris itself was 
painted, when the colour was a known characteristic of 
the divine or heroic personage represented. 

Finally, I will note down those fundamental character- 
istics which contradistinguish the ancient literature 
from the modern generally, but which more especially 
appear in prominence in the tragic drama. The ancient 
was allied to statuary, the modern refers to painting. 
In the first there is a predominance of rhythm and melody, 
in the second of harmony and counterpoint. The Greeks 
idolized the finite, and therefore v/ere the masters of all 
grace, elegance, proportion, fancy, dignity, majesty — 
of whatever, in short, is capable of being definitely con- 
veyed by defined forms or thoughts : the moderns revere 
the infinite, and affect the indefinite as a vehicle of the 
infinite ; — hence their passions, their obscure hopes 
and fears, their wandering through the unknown, their 
grander moral feelings, their more august conception of 
man as man, their future rather than their past — in a 
Vv^ord, their sublimity. 

20 Progress of the Drama 


Let two persons join in the same scheme to ridicule 
a third, and either take advantage of, or invent, some 
story for that purpose, and mimicry will have already 
produced a sort of rude comedy. It becomes an inviting 
treat to the populace, and gains an additional zest and 
burlesque by following the already established plan 
of tragedy ; and the first man of genius who seizes the 
idea, and reduces it into form, — into a work of art, — 
by metre and music, is the Aristophanes of the country. 

How just this account is wtll appear from the fact 
that in the first or old comedy of the Athenians, most 
of the dramatis personce were living characters intro- 
duced under their own names ; and no doubt, their 
ordinary dress, manner, person and voice were closely 
mimicked. In less favourable states of society, as that 
of England in the middle ages, the beginnings of comedy 
would be constantly taking place from the mimics and 
satirical minstrels ; but from want of fixed abode, popular 
government, and the successive attendance of the same 
auditors, it would stiU remain in embryo. I shall, 
perhaps, have occasion to observe that this remark is 
not without importance in explaining the essential 
differences of the modern and ancient theatres. 

Phenomena, similar to those which accompanied the 
origin of tragedy and comedy among the Greeks, would 
take place among the Romans much more slowly, and 
the drama would, in any case, have much longer re- 
mained in its first irregular form from the character of 
the people, their continual engagements in wars of con- 
quest, the nature of their government, and their rapidly 
increasing empire. But, however this might have been, 
the conquest of Greece precluded both the process and 
the necessity of it ; and the Roman stage at once pre- 
sented imitations or translations of the Greek drama. 
This continued till the perfect establishment of Chris- 
tianity. Some attempts, indeed, were made to adapt 
the persons of Scriptural or ecclesiastical history to the 
drama ; and sacred plays, it is probable, were not unknown 
in Constantinople under the emperors of the East. The 
first of the kind is, I believe, the only one preserved, — 

Progress of the Drama 21 

namely, the Xpiffrog udffx^v, or, " Christ in his suffer- 
ings," by Gregory Nazianzen, — possibly written in con- 
sequence of the prohibition of profane literature to the 
Christians by the apostate Julian.^ In the West, however, 
the enslaved and debauched Roman world became too 
barbarous for any theatrical exhibitions more refined 
than those of pageants and chariot-races ; while the 
spirit of Christianity, which in its most corrupt form 
still breathed general humanity, whenever controversies 
of faith were not concerned, had done away the cruel 
combats of the gladiators, and the loss of the distant 
provinces prevented the possibility of exhibiting the 
engagements of wild beasts. 

I pass, therefore, at once to the feudal ages which 
soon succeeded, confining my observation to this country ; 
though, indeed, the same remark with very few alterations 
will apply to all the other states, into which the great 
empire was broken. Ages of darkness succeeded ; — 
not, indeed, the darkness of Russia or of the barbarous 
lands unconquered by Rome ; for from the time of 
Honorius to the destruction of Constantinople and the 
consequent introduction of ancient literature into Europe, 
there was a continued succession of individual intellects ; 
— the golden chain was never wholly broken, though 
the connecting links were often of baser metal. A dark 
cloud, like another sky, covered the entire cope of heaven, 
— but in this place it thinned away, and white stains 
of light showed a half eclipsed star behind it, — in that 
place it was rent asunder, and a star passed across the 
opening in all its brightness, and then vanished. Such 
stars exhibited themselves only ; surrounding objects 
did not partake of their light. There were deep wells 
of knowledge, but no fertilizing rills and rivulets. For 
the drama, society was altogether a state of chaos, out 
of which it was, for a while at least, to proceed anew, 
as if there had been none before it. And yet it is not 
undelightful to contemplate the eduction of good from 
evil. The ignorance of the great mass of our countrymen 
was the efficient cause of the reproduction of the drama ; 
and the preceding darkness and the returning light were 
alike necessary in order to the creation of a Shakspeare. 

A.D. 363. But I believe the prevailing opinion amongst scholars now is, that tht 
'Kpiarbs lldo-xwJ' is not genuine. £d. 

22 Progress of the Drama 

The drama re-commenced in England, as it first began 
in Greece, in religion. The people were not able to read, 
— the priesthood were unwilling that they should read ; 
and yet their own interest compelled them not to leave 
the people wholly ignorant of the great events of sacred 
history. They did that, therefore, by scenic repre- 
sentations, which in after ages it has been attempted 
to do in Roman Catholic countries by pictures. They 
presented Mysteries, and often at great expense ; and 
reliques of this system still remain in the south of Europe, 
and indeed throughout Italy, where at Christmas the 
convents and the great nobles rival each other in the 
scenic representation of the birth of Christ and its circum- 
stances. I heard two instances mentioned to me at 
different times, one in Sicily and the other in Rome, 
of noble devotees, the ruin of whose fortunes was said 
to have commenced in the extravagant expense which 
had been incurred in presenting the prcesepe or manger. 
But these Mysteries, in order to answer their design, 
must not only be instructive, but entertaining ; and 
as, when they became so, the people began to take pleasure 
in acting them themselves — in interloping, — (against 
which the priests seem to have fought hard and yet in 
vain) the most ludicrous images were mixed with the 
most awful personations ; and whatever the subject 
might be, however sublime, however pathetic, yet the 
Vice and the Devil, who are the genuine antecessors of 
Harlequin and the Clown, were necessary component 
parts. I have myself a piece of this kind, which I tran- 
scribed a few years ago at Helmstadt, in Germany, on 
the education of Eve's children, in which after the fall 
and repentance of Adam, the offended Maker, as in proof 
of his reconciliation, condescends to visit them, and to 
catechise the children, — who with a noble contempt of 
chronology are all brought together from Abel to Noah. 
The good children say the ten Commandments, the 
Belief and the Lord's Prayer ; but Cain and his rout, 
after he had received a box on the ear for not taking off 
his hat, and afterwards offering his left hand, is prompted 
by the devil so to blunder in the Lord's Prayer as to 
reverse the petitions and say it backward ! ^ 

1 See vol. i. p. 76, where this is told more at length and attributed to Hans Sachs, 
Ed. Vol. ii. pp. 16, 17, 2nQ edit. S. C 

Progress of the Drama 23 

" Unaffectedly I declare I feel pain at repetitions like 
these, however innocent. As historical documents they 
are valuable ; but I am sensible that what I can read 
with my eye with perfect innocence, I cannot without 
inward fear and misgivings pronounce with my tongue. 

Let me, however, be acquitted of presumption if I 
say that I cannot agree with Mr. Malone, that our ancestors 
did not perceive the ludicrous in these things, or that 
they paid no separate attention to the serious and comic 
parts. Indeed his own statement contradicts it. For 
what purpose should the Vice leap upon the Devil's 
back and belabour him, but to produce this separate 
attention ? The people laughed heartily, no doubt. 
Nor can I conceive any meaning attached to the words 
" separate attention," that is not fully answered by 
one part of an exhibition exciting seriousness or pity, 
and the other raising mirth and loud laughter. That 
they felt no impiety in the affair is most true. For it 
is the very essence of that system of Christian poly- 
theism, which in all its essentials is now fully as gross 
in Spain, in Sicily and the south of Italy, as it ever was 
in England in the days of Henry VI. — (nay, more so, 
for a Wicliffe had not then appeared only, but scattered 
the good seed widely,) it is an essential part, I say, of 
that system to draw the mind whoUy from its own inward 
whispers and quiet discriminations, and to habituate 
the conscience to pronounce sentence in every case accord- 
ing to the established verdicts of the church and the 
casuists. I have looked through volume after volume 
of the most approved casuists, — and still I find dis- 
quisitions whether this or that act is right, and under 
what circumstances, to a minuteness that makes reason- 
ing ridiculous, and of a callous and unnatural immodesty, 
to which none but a monk could harden himself, who 
has been stripped of all the tender charities of life, yet 
is goaded on to make war against them by the unsubdued 
hauntings of our meaner nature, even as dogs are said 
to get the hydrophobia from excessive thirst. I fully 
believe that our ancestors laughed as heartily, as their 
posterity do at Grimaldi ; — and not having been told that 
they would be punished for laughing, they thought it very 
innocent ; — and if their priest had left out murder in the 
catalogue of their prohibitions (as indeed they did under 

24 Progress of the Drama 

certain circumstances of heresy), the greater part of them, 
— the moral instincts common to all men having been 
smothered and kept from development, — would have 
thought as httle of murder. 

However this may be, the necessity of at once instructing 
and gratifying the people produced the great distinction 
between the Greek and the English theatres ; — for to this 
we must attribute the origin of tragi-comedy, or a repre- 
sentation of human events more lively, nearer the truth, 
and permitting a larger field of moral instruction, a more 
ample exhibition of the recesses of the human heart, under 
all the trials and circumstances that most concern us, than 
WcLS known or guessed at by ^schylus, Sophocles, of 
Euripides ; — and at the same time we learn to account 
for, and — relatively to the author — perceive the necessity 
of, the Fool or Clown or both, as the substitutes of the 
Vice and the Devil, which our ancestors had been so 
accustomed to see in every exhibition of the stage, that 
they could not feel any performance perfect without them. 
Even to this day in Italy, every opera — (even Metastasio 
obeyed the claim throughout) — must have six characters, 
generally two pairs of cross lovers, a tyrant and a confidant, 
or a father and two confidants, themselves lovers ; — and 
when a new opera appears, it is the universal fashion to 
ask — which is the tyrant, which the lover ? &c. 

It is the especial honour of Christianity, that in its worst 
and most corrupted form it cannot wholly separate itself 
from morality ; — whereas the other religions in their best 
form (I do not include Mohammedanism, which is only an 
anomalous corruption of Christianity, like Swedenbor- 
gianism,) have no connection with it. The very imper- 
sonation of moral evil under the name of Vice, facilitated 
all other impersonations ; and hence we see that the 
Mysteries were succeeded by Moralities, or dialogues and 
plots of allegorical personages. Again, some character in 
real history had become so famous, so proverbial, as Nero 
for instance, that they were introduced instead of the moral 
quahty, for which they were so noted ; — and in this mannei 
the stage was moving on to the absolute production of 
heroic and comic real characters, when the restoration of 
literature, followed by the ever-blessed Reformation, let in 
upon the kingdom not only new knowledge, but new motive. 
A useful rivalry commenced between the metropolis on the 

Progress of the Drama 25 

one hand, the residence, independently of the court and 
nobles, of the most active and stirring spirits who had not 
been regularly educated, or who, from mischance or other- 
wise, had forsaken the beaten track of preferment, — and 
the universities on the other. The latter prided them- 
selves on their closer approximation to the ancient rules 
and ancient regularity — taking the theatre of Greece, or 
rather its dim reflection, the rhetorical tragedies of the 
poet Seneca, as a perfect ideal, without any critical 
collation of the times, origin, or circumstances ; — whilst, 
in the mean time, the popular writers, who could not 
and would not abandon what they had found to delight 
their countrymen sincerely, and not merely from in- 
quiries first put to the recollection of rules, and answered 
in the affirmative, as if it had been an arithmetical sum, 
did yet borrow from the scholars whatever they advan- 
tageously could, consistently with their own peculiar 
means of pleasing. 

And here let me pause for a moment's contemplation 
of this interesting subject. 

We call, for we see and feel, the swan and the dove 
both transcendantly beautiful. As absurd as it would 
be to institute a comparison between their separate 
claims to beauty from any abstract rule common to 
both, without reference to the life and being of the animals 
themselves, — or as if, having first seen the dove, we 
abstracted its outlines, gave them a false generalization, 
called them the principles or ideal of bird-beauty, and 
then proceeded to criticise the swan or the eagle ; — 
not less absurd is it to pass judgment on the works of a 
poet on the mere ground that they have been called by the 
same class-name with the works of other poets in other 
times and circumstances, or on any ground, indeed, save 
that of their inappropriateness to their own end and being, 
their want of significance, as symbols or physiognomy. 

O ! few have there been among critics, who have 
followed with the eye of the imagination the imperishable 
yet ever wandering spirit of poetry through its various 
metempsychoses, and consequent metamorphoses ; — or 
who have rejoiced in the light of clear perception at 
beholding with each new birth, with each rare avatar, 
the human race frame to itself a new body, by assimi- 
lating materials of nourishment out of its new circum- 

26 Progress of the Drama 

stances, and work for itself new organs of power appro- 
priate to the new sphere of its motion and activity ! 

I have before spoken of the Romance, or the language 
formed out of the decayed Roman and the Northern 
tongues ; and comparing it with the Latin, we find it 
less perfect in simplicity and relation — the privileges of 
a language formed by the mere attraction of homo- 
geneous parts ; — but yet more rich, more expressive 
and various, as one formed by more obscure affinities 
out of a chaos of apparently heterogeneous atoms. As 
more than a metaphor, — as an analogy of this, I have 
named the true genuine modern poetry the romantic ; 
and the works of Shakspeare are romantic poetry reveal- 
ing itself in the drama. If the tragedies of Sophocles 
are in the strict sense of the word tragedies, and the 
comedies of Aristophanes comedies, we must emancipate 
ourselves from a false association arising from misapplied 
names, and find a new word for the plays of Shakspeare. 
For they are, in the ancient sense, neither tragedies nor 
comedies, nor both in one, — but a different genus, diverse 
in kind, and not merely different in degree. They may 
be called romantic dramas, or dramatic romances. 

A deviation from the simple forms and unities of the 
ancient stage is an essential principle, and, of course, 
an appropriate excellence, of the romantic drama. For 
these unities were to a great extent the natural form of 
that which in its elements was homogeneous, and the 
representation of which was addressed pre-eminently to 
the outward senses ; — and though the fable, the language 
and the characters appealed to the reason rather than to 
the mere understanding, inasmuch as they supposed 
an ideal state rather than referred to an existing reality, 
— yet it was a reason which was obliged to accommodate 
itself to the senses, and so far became a sort of more 
elevated understanding. On the other hand, the roman- 
tic poetry — the Shakspearian drama — appealed to the 
imagination rather than to the senses, and to the reason 
as contemplating our inward nature, and the workings 
of the passions in their most retired recesses. But the 
reason, as reason, is independent of time and space ; it 
has nothing to do with them : and hence the certainties 
of reason have been called eternal truths. As for example 
— the endless properties of the circle : — what connection 

Progress of the Drama 27 

have they with this or that age, with this or that country ? 
— The reason is aloof from time and space ; the imagination 
is an arbitrary controller over both ; — and if only the 
poet have such power of exciting our internal emotions 
as to make us present to the scene in imagination chiefly, 
he acquires the right and privilege of using time and 
space as they exist in imagination, and obedient only 
to the laws by which the imagination itself acts. These 
laws it will be my object and aim to point out as the 
examples occur, which illustrate them. But here let 
me remark what can never be too often reflected on by 
all who would intelligently study the works either of 
the Athenian dramatists, or of Shakspeare, that the 
very essence of the former consists in the sternest separa- 
tion of the diverse in kind and the disparate in the degree, 
whilst the latter delights in interlacing, by a rainbow- 
like transfusion of hues, the one with the other. 

And here it will be necessary to say a few words on 
the stage and on stage-illusion. 

A theatre, in the widest sense of the word, is the general 
term for all places of amusement through the ear or eye, 
in which men assemble in order to be amused by some 
entertainment presented to all at the same time and in 
common. Thus, an old Puritan divine says : — " Those 
who attend public worship and sermons only to amuse 
themselves, make a theatre of the church, and turn 
God's house into the devil's. Theatra cedes diabolola- 
triccB." The most important and dignified species of 
this gemts is, doubtless, the stage, {res theatralis histri- 
onic a), which, in addition to the generic definition above 
given, may be characterized in its idea, or according to 
what it does, or ought to, aim at, as a combination of 
several or of all the fine arts in an harmonious whole, 
having a distinct end of its own, to which the peculiar 
end of each of the component arts, taken separately, 
is made subordinate and subservient, — that, namely, 
of imitating reality — whether external things, actions, 
or passions — under a semblance of reality. Thus, Claude 
imitates a landscape at sunset, but only as a picture ; 
while a forest-scene is not presented to the spectators 
as a picture, but as a forest ; and though, in the full 
sense of the word, we are no more deceived by the one 
than by the other, yet are our feelings very differently 

28 Progress of the Drama 

affected ; and the pleasure derived from the one is not 
composed of the same elements as that afforded by the 
other, even on the supposition that the quantum of 
both were equal. In the former, a picture, it is a 
condition of all genuine delight that we should not be 
deceived ; in the latter, stage-scenery, (inasmuch as its 
principal end is not in or for itself, as is the case in a 
picture, but to be an assistance and means to an end 
out of itself) its very purpose is to produce as much 
illusion as its nature permits. These, and all other 
stage presentations, are to produce a sort of temporary 
half-faith, which the spectator encourages in himself 
and supports by a voluntary contribution on his own 
part, because he knows that it is at all times in his power 
to see the thing as it really is. I have often observed 
that little children are actually deceived by stage-scenery, 
never by pictures ; though even these produce an effect 
on their impressible minds, which they do not on the 
minds of adults. The child, if strongly impressed, does 
not indeed positively think the picture to be the reality ; 
but yet he does not think the contrary. As Sir George 
Beaumont was shewing me a very fine engraving from 
Rubens, representing a storm at sea without any vessel 
or boat introduced, my little boy, then about five years 
old, came dancing and singing into the room, and all 
at once (if I may so say) tumbled in upon the print. He 
instantly started, stood silent and motionless, with the 
strongest expression, first of wonder and then of grief 
in his eyes and countenance, and at length said, " And 
where is the ship ? But that is sunk, and the men are 
all drowned ! " still keeping his eyes fixed on the print. 
Now what pictures are to little children, stage illusion 
is to men, provided they retain any part of the child's 
sensibility ; except, that in the latter instance, the 
suspension of the act of comparison, which permits this 
sort of negative belief, is somewhat more assisted by the 
will, than in that of a child respecting a picture. 

The true stage-illusion in this and in all other things 
consists — not in the mind's judging it to be a forest, but, 
in its remission of the judgment that it is not a forest. 
And this subject of stage-illusion is so important, and so 
many practical errors and false criticisms may arise, and 
indeed have arisen, either from reasoning on it as actual 

Progress of the Drama 29 

delusion, (the strange notion, on which the French critics 
built up their theory, and on which the French poets 
justify the construction of their tragedies), or from deny- 
ing it altogether, (which seems the end of Dr. Johnson's 
reasoning, and which, as extremes meet, would lead to the 
very same consequences, by excluding whatever would 
not be judged probable by us in our coolest state of feeling, 
with all our faculties in even balance), that these few 
remarks will, I hope, be pardoned, if they should serve 
either to explain or to illustrate the point. For not only 
are we never absolutely deluded — or any thing like it, 
but the attempt to cause the highest delusion possible 
to beings in their senses sitting in a theatre, is a gross 
fault, incident only to low minds, which, feeling that they 
cannot affect the heart or head permanently, endeavour 
to call forth the momentary affections. There ought 
never to be more pain than is compatible with co-existing 
pleasure, and to be amply repaid by thought. 

Shakspeare found the infant stage demanding an 
intermixture of ludicrous character as imperiously as 
that of Greece did the chorus, and high language accordant. 
And there are many advantages in this ; — a greater 
assimilation to nature, a greater scope of power, more 
truths, and more feelings ; — the effects of contrast, as 
in Lear and the Fool ; and especially this, that the true 
language of passion becomes sufficiently elevated by your 
having previously heard, in the same piece, the lighter 
conversation of men under no strong emotion. The 
very nakedness of the stage, too, was advantageous, — 
for the drama thence became something between recita- 
tion and a re-presentation ; and the absence or paucity 
of scenes allowed a freedom from the laws of unity of 
place and unity of time, the observance of which must 
either confine the drama to as few subjects as may be 
counted on the fingers, or involve gross improbabilities, 
far more striking than the violation would have caused. 
Thence, also, wels precluded the danger of a false ideal, 
— of aiming at more than what is possible on the whole. 
What play of the ancients, with reference to their ideal, 
does not hold out more glaring absurdities than any in 
Shakspeare ? On the Greek plan a man could more 
easily be a poet than a dramatist ; upon our plan more 
easily a dramatist than a poet. 

30 The Drama Generally 


Unaccustomed to address such an audience, and having 
lost by a long interval of confinement the advantages 
of my former short schooling, I had miscalculated in 
my last Lecture the proportion of my matter to my time, 
and by bad economy and unskilful management, the 
several heads of my discourse failed in making the entire 
performance correspond with the promise publicly circu- 
lated in the weekly annunciation of the subjects, to be 
treated. It would indeed have been wiser in me, and 
perhaps better on the whole, if I had caused my Lectures 
to be announced only as continuations of the main subject. 
But if I be, as perforce I must be, gratified by the recollec- 
tion of whatever has appeared to give you pleasure, I 
am conscious of something better, though less flattering, 
a sense of unfeigned gratitude for your forbearance with 
my defects. Like affectionate guardians, you see with- 
out disgust the awkwardness, and witness with sym- 
pathy the growing pains, of a youthful endeavour, and 
look forward with a hope, which is its own reward, to 
the contingent results of practice — to its intellectual 

In my last address I defined poetry to be the art, 
or whatever better term our language may afford, of 
representing external nature and human thoughts, both 
relatively to human affections, so as to cause the pro- 
duction of as great immediate pleasure in each part, 
as is compatible with the largest possible sum of pleasure 
on the whole. Now this definition applies equally to 
painting and music as to poetry ; and in truth the term 
poetry is alike applicable to all three. The vehicle alone 
constitutes the difference ; and the term * poetry ' is 
rightly applied by eminence to measured words, only 
because the sphere of their action is far wider, the power 
of giving permanence to them much more certain, and 
incomparably greater the facility, by which men, not 
defective by nature or disease, may be enabled to derive 
habitual pleasure and instruction from them. On my 
mentioning these considerations to a painter of great 

and Public Taste 31 

genius, who had been, from a most honourable enthusiasm, 
extolling his own art, he was so struck with their truth, 
that he exclaimed, " I want no other arguments ; — 
poetry, that is, verbal poetry, must be the greatest ; 
all that proves final causes in the world, proves this ; 
it would be shocking to think otherwise ! " — And in 
truth, deeply, O ! far more than words can express, 
as I venerate the Last Judgment and the Prophets of 
Michel Angelo Buonaroti, — yet the very pain which I 
repeatedly felt as I lost myself in gazing upon them, 
the painful consideration that their having been painted 
in fresco was the sole cause that they had not been aban- 
doned to all the accidents of a dangerous transportation 
to a distant capital, and that the same caprice, which 
made the Neapolitan soldiery destroy all the exquisite 
masterpieces on the walls of the church of the Trinitado 
Monte, after the retreat of their antagonist barbarians, 
might as easily have made vanish the rooms and open 
gallery of Raffael, and the yet more unapproachable 
wonders of the sublime Florentine in the Sixtine Chapel, 
forced upon my mind the reflection ; How grateful 
the human race ought to be that the works of Euclid, 
Newton, Plato, Milton, Shakspeare, are not subjected 
to similar contingencies, — that they and their fellows, 
and the great, though inferior, peerage of undying in- 
tellect, are secured ; — secured even from a second irruption 
of Goths and Vandals, in addition to many other safe- 
guards, by the vast empire of English language, laws, 
and religion founded in America, through the overflow 
of the power and the virtue of my country ; — and that 
now the great and certain works of genuine fame can 
only cease to act for mankind, when men themselves 
cease to be men, or when the planet on which they exist, 
shall have altered its relations, or have ceased to be. 
Lord Bacon, in the language of the gods, if I may use an 
Homeric phrase, has expressed a similar thought : — 

Lastly, leaving the vulgar arguments, that by learning man 
excelleth man in that wherein man excelleth beasts ; that by 
learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where 
in body he cannot come, and the like ; let us conclude with the 
dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that where- 
unto man's nature doth most aspire, which is, immortality or con- 
tinuance : for to this tendeth generation, and raising of houses and 
families ; to this tend buildings, foundations, and monuments ; 

32 The Drama Generally 

to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration, and 
in effect the strength of all other human desires. We see then how 
far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than 
the monuments of power, or of the hands. For have not the verses 
of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without 
the loss of a syllable or letter ; during which time, infinite palaces, 
temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished ? It is 
not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, 
Caesar ; no, nor of the kings or great personages of much later 
years ; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but lose 
of the life and truth. But the images of men's wits and know- 
ledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and 
capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called 
images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds 
of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in 
succeeding ages : so that, if the invention of the ship was thought 
so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, 
and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their 
fruits ; how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, 
pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to 
participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one 
of the other ? ^ 

But let us now consider what the drama should be. 
And first, it is not a copy, but an imitation, of nature. 
This is the universal principle of the fine arts. In all 
well laid out grounds what delight do we feel from that 
balance and antithesis of feelings and thoughts ! How 
natural ! we say ; — but the very wonder that caused 
the exclamation, implies that we perceived art at the 
same moment. We catch the hint from nature itself. 
Whenever in mountains or cataracts we discover a like- 
ness to any thing artificial which yet we know is not 
artificial — what pleasure ! And so it is in appearances 
known to be artificial, which appear to be natural. This 
applies in due degrees, regulated by steady good sense, 
from a clump of trees to the Paradise Lost or Othello. 
It would be easy to apply it to painting and even, though 
with greater abstraction of thought, and by more subtle 
yet equally just analogies — to music. But this belongs 
to others ; suffice it that one great principle is common 
to all the fine arts, a principle which probably is the 
condition of all consciousness, without which we should 
feel and imagine only by discontinuous moments, and 
be plants or brute animals instead of men ; — I mean 
that ever-varying balance, or balancing, of images, notions, 

1 Advancement of Learning, book i, sub fine. 

and Public Taste 33 

or feelings, conceived as in opposition to each other ; 
— in short, the perception of identity and contrariety ; 
the least degree of which constitutes likeness, the greatest 
absolute di^erence ; but the infinite gradations between 
these two form all the play and all the interest of our 
intellectual and moral being, till it leads us to a feeJing 
and an object more awful than it seems to me compatible 
with even the present subject to utter aloud, though 
I am most desirous to suggest it. For there alone are 
all things at once different and the same ; there alone, 
as the principle of all things, does distinction exist un- 
aided by division ; there are will and reason, succession 
of time and unmoving eternity, infinite change and 
ineffable rest ! — 

Return Alpheus ! the dread voice is past 
Which shrunk thy streams ! 

-Thou honour'd flood. 

Smooth-flowing Avon, crown'd with vocal reeds. 
That strain I heard, was of a higher mood I — 
But now my voice proceeds. 

We may divide a dramatic poet's characteristics before 
we enter into the component merits of any one work, 
and with reference only to those things which are to be 
the materials of all, into language, passion, and character ; 
always bearing in mind that these must act and react on 
each other, — the language inspired by the passion, and 
the language and the passion modified and differenced 
by the character. To the production of the highest 
excellencies in these three, there are requisite in the 
mind of the author ; — good sense ; talent ; sensibility ; 
imagination ; — and to the perfection of a work we should 
add two faculties of lesser importance, yet necessary 
for the ornaments and foliage of the column and the roof 
— fancy and a quick sense of beauty. 

As to language ; — it cannot be supposed that the poet 
should make his characters say all that they would, or 
that, his whole drama considered, each scene, or paragraph 
should be such as, on cool examination, we can conceive 
it likely that men in such situations would say, in that 
order, or with that perfection. And yet, according to 
my feelings, it is a very inferior kind of poetry, in which, 
as in the French tragedies, men are made to talk in a 


34 The Drama Generally 

style which few indeed even of the wittiest can be supposed 
to converse in, and which both is, and on a moment's 
reflection appears to be, the natural produce of the hot- 
bed of vanity, namely, the closet of an author, who is 
actuated originally by a desire to. excite surprise and 
wonderment at his own superiority to other men, — 
instead of having felt so deeply on certain subjects, or 
in consequence of certain imaginations, as to make it 
almost a necessity of his nature to seek for sympathy, 
— no doubt, wdth that honourable desire of permanent 
action which distinguishes genius. — Where then is the 
difference ? — In this that each part should be propor- 
tionate, though the whole may be perhaps impossible. 
At all events, it should be compatible with sound sense 
and logic in the mind of the poet himself. 

It is to be lamented that we judge of books by books, 
instead of referring what we read to our own experience. 
One great use of books is to make their contents a motive 
for observation. The German tragedies have in some 
respects been justly ridiculed. In them the dramatist 
often becomes a novelist in his directions to the actors, 
and thus degrades tragedy into pantomime. Yet still 
the consciousness of the poet's mind must be diffused 
over that of the reader or spectator ; but he himself, 
according to his genius, elevates us, and by being always 
in keeping, prevents us from perceiving any strangeness, 
though we feel great exultation. Many different kinds 
of style may be admirable, both in different men, and in 
different parts of the same poem. 

See the different language which strong feelings may 
justify in Shylock, and learn from Shakspeare's conduct 
of that character the terrible force of every plain and 
calm diction, when known to proceed from a resolved and 
impassioned man. 

It is especially with reference to the drama, and its 
characteristics in any given nation, or at any particular 
period, that the dependence of genius on the public taste 
becomes a matter of the deepest importance. I do not 
mean that taste which springs merely from caprice or 
fashionable imitation, and which, in fact, genius can, 
and by degrees will, create for itself ; but that which 
arises out of wide-grasping and heart-enrooted causes, 
which is epidemic, and in the very air that all breathe. 

and Public Taste 35 

This it is which kills, or withers, or corrupts. Socrates, 
indeed, might walk arm and arm with Hygeia, whilst 
pestilence, with a thousand furies running to and fro, 
and clashing against each other in a complexity and 
agglomeration of horrors, was shooting her darts of fire 
and venom all around him. Even such was Milton ; 
yea, and such, in spite of all that has been babbled by 
his critics in pretended excuse for his damning, because 
for them too profound, excellencies, — such was Shak- 
speare. But alas ! the exceptions prove the rule. For 
who will dare to force his way out of the crowd, — not of 
the mere vulgar, — but of the vain and banded aristocracy 
of intellect, and presume to join the almost supernatural 
beings that stand by themselves aloof ? 

Of this diseased epidemic influence there are two forms 
especially preclusive of tragic worth. The first is the 
necessary growth of a sense and love of the ludicrous, 
and a morbid sensibility of the assimilative power, — 
an inflammation produced by cold and weakness, — 
which in the boldest bursts of passion will lie in wait for a 
jeer at any phrase, that may have an accidental coinci- 
dence in the mere words with something base or trivial. 
For instance, — to express woods, not on a plain, but 
clothing a hiU, which overlooks a valley, or dell, or river, 
or the sea, — the trees rising one above another, as the 
spectators in an ancient theatre, — I know no other word 
in our language, (bookish and pedantic terms out of the 
question,) but hanging woods, the sylvcB superimpen- 
dentes of Catullus ; ^ yet let some wit call out in a slang 
tone, — " the gallows ! " and a peal of laughter would 
damn the play. Hence it is that so many dull pieces have 
had a decent run, only because nothing unusual above, 
or absurd below, mediocrity furnished an occasion, — a 
spark for the explosive materials collected behind the 
orchestra. But it would take a volume of no ordinary 
size, however laconically the sense were expressed, if it 
were meant to instance the effects, and unfold all the 
causes, of this disposition upon the moral, intellectual, 
and even physical character of a people, with its influences 
on domestic life and individual deportment. A good 
document upon this subject would be the history of Paris 

1 Confestim Peneos adest, viridantia Tempe, 
Tempae, quae cingunt sylvae superimpendentes. 

£pi^h. Pel. et Tk. 3S6. 

36 The Drama Generally 

society and of French, that is, Parisian, Hterature from 
the commencement of the latter half of the reign of 
Louis XIV. to that of Buonaparte, compared with the 
preceding philosophy and poetry even of Frenchmen 

The second form, or more properly, perhaps, another 
distinct cause, of this diseased disposition is matter of 
exultation to the philanthropist and philosopher, and of 
regret to the poet, the painter, and the statuary alone, 
and to them only as poets, painters, and statuaries ; — 
namely, the security, the comparative equability, and 
ever increasing sameness of human life. Men are now so 
seldom thrown into wild circumstances, and violences of 
excitement, that the language of such states, the laws of 
association of feeling with thought, the starts and strange 
far-flights of the assimilative power on the slightest and 
least obvious likeness presented by thoughts, words, or 
objects, — these are all judged of by authority, not by 
actual experience, — by what men have been accustomed 
to regard as symbols of these states, and not the natural 
sjmibols, or self-manifestations of them. 

Even so it is in the language of man, and in that of 
nature. The sound sun, or the figures s, u, n, are purely 
arbitrary modes of recalling the object, and for visual 
mere objects they are not only sufficient, but have infinite 
advantages from their very nothingness per se. But the 
language of nature is a subordinate Logos, that was in the 
beginning, and was with the thing it represented, and was 
the thing it represented. 

Now the language of Shakspeare, in his Lear for instance, 
is a something intermediate between these two ; or rather 
it is the former blended with the latter, — the arbitrary, 
not merely recalling the cold notion of the thing, but 
expressing the reality of it, and, as arbitrary language is 
an heir-loom of the human race, being itself a part of that 
which it manifests. What shall I deduce from the pre- 
ceding positions ? Even this, — the appropriate, the never 
to be too much valued advantage of the theatre, if only 
the actors were what we know they have been, — a delight- 
ful, yet most effectual remedy for this dead palsy of the 
public mind. What would appear mad or ludicrous in a 
book, when presented to the senses under the form of 
reality, and with the truth of nature, supplies a species of 

and Public Taste 37 

actual experience. This is indeed the special privilege 
of a great actor over a great poet. No part was ever 
played in perfection, but nature justified herself in the 
hearts of all her children, in what state soever they were, 
short of absolute moral exhaustion, or downright stupidity. 
There is no time given to ask questions, or to pass judg- 
ments ; v/e are taken by storm, and, though in the histri- 
onic art many a clumsy counterfeit, by caricature of one 
or two features, may gain applause as a fine likeness, yet 
never was the very thing rejected as a counterfeit. O ! 
when I think of the inexhaustible mine of virgin treasure 
in our Shakspeare, that I have been almost daily reading 
him since I was ten years old, — that the thirty inter- 
vening years have been unintermittingly and not fruit- 
lessly employed in the study of the Greek, Latin, English, 
Italian, Spanish and German helle lettrists, and the last 
fifteen years in addition, far more intensely in the analysis 
of the laws of life and reason as they exist in man, — and 
that upon every step I have made forward in taste, in 
acquisition of facts from history or my own observation, 
and in knowledge of the different laws of being and their 
apparent exceptions, from accidental collision of disturbing 
forces, — that at every new accession of information, after 
every successful exercise of meditation, and every fresh 
presentation of experience, I have unfailingly discovered 
a proportionate increase of wisdom and intuition in 
Shakspeare ; — when I know this, and know too, that by 
a conceivable and possible, though hardly to be expected, 
arrangement of the British theatres, not all, indeed, but 
a large, a very large, proportion of this indefinite all — 
(round which no comprehension has yet drawn the line 
of circumscription, so as to say to itself, *I have seen the 
whole') — might be sent into the heads and hearts — into 
the very souls of the mass of mankind, to whom, except 
by this living comment and interpretation, it must remain 
for ever a sealed volume, a deep well without a wheel or 
a windlass ; — it seems to me a pardonable enthusiasm 
to steal away from sober likelihood, and share in so rich 
a feast in the faery world of possibility ! Yet even in 
the grave cheerfulness of a circumspect hope, much, very 
much, might be done ; enough, assuredly, to furnish a 
kind and strenuous nature with ample motives for the 
attempt to effect what may be effected. 

38 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 


Clothed in radiant armour, and authorized by titles sure 
and manifold, as a poet, Shakspeare came forward to 
demand the throne of fame, as the dramatic poet of 
England. His excellences compelled even his contem- 
poraries to seat him on that throne, although there were 
giants in those days contending for the same honour. 
Hereafter I would fain endeavour to make out the title 
of the English drama as created by, and existing in, Shak- 
speare, and its right to the supremacy of dramatic excel- 
lence in general. But he had shown himself a poet, pre- 
viously to his appearance as a dramatic poet ; and had 
no Lear, no Othello, no Henry IV., no Twelfth Night ever 
appeared, we must have admitted that Shakspeare pos- 
sessed the chief, if not every, requisite of a poet, — deep 
feeling and exquisite sense of beauty, both as exhibited 
to the eye in the combinations of form, and to the ear in 
sweet and appropriate melody ; that these feelings were 
under the command of his own will ; that in his very first 
productions he projected his mind out of his own particular 
being, and felt, and made others feel, on subjects no way 
connected with himself, except by force of contemplation 
and that sublime faculty by which a great mind becomes 
that, on which it meditates. To this must be added that 
affectionate love of nature and natural objects, without 
which no man could have observed so steadily, or painted 
so truly and passionately, the very minutest beauties of 
the external world : — 

And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare, 
Mark the poor wretch ; to overshoot his troubles, 
How he outruns the wind, and with what care, 
He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles : 
The many musits through the which he goes 
Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes. 

Sometimes he runs among the flock of sheep, 
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell ; 
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep. 
To stop the loud pursuers in their ^'■ell ; 
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer : 
Danger deviseth shifts, wit waits on fear. 

For there his smell with others' being mmgled, 
The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt. 
Ceasing their clamorous cry, till they have singled. 

Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 39 

With much ado, the cold fault cleanly out, 
Then do they spend their mouths ; echo replies, 
As if another chase were in the skies. 

By this poor Wat far off, upon a hill, 
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear. 
To hearken if his foes pursue him still : 
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear, 
And now his grief may be compared well 
To one sore-sick, that hears the passing bell. 

Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch 
Turn, and return, indenting with the way : 
Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch, 
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay. 
For misery is trodden on by many, 
And being low, never relieved by any. 

Venus and Adonis. 

And the preceding description : — 

But lo ! from forth a copse that neighbours by, 
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud, &c. 

is much more admirable, but in parts less fitted for quota- 

Moreover Shakspeare had shown that he possessed 
fancy, considered as the faculty of bringing together 
images dissimilar in the main by some one point or more 
of likeness, as in such a passage as this : — 

Full gently now she takes him by the hand, 

A lily prisoned in a jail of snow. 

Or ivory in an alabaster band : 

So white a friend ingirts so white a foe ! Ih. 

And still mounting the intellectual ladder, he had as 
unequivocally proved the indwelling in his mind of im- 
agination, or the power by which one image or feeling is 
made to modify many others, and by a sort of fusion to 
force many into one ; — that which afterwards showed 
itself in such might and energy in Lear, where the deep 
anguish of a father spreads the feeling of ingratitude and 
cruelty over the very elements of heaven ; — and which, 
combining many circumstances into one moment of con- 
sciousness, tends to produce that ultimate end of all 
human thought and human feeling, unity, and thereby 
the reduction of the spirit to its principle and fountain, 
who is alone truly one. Various are the workings of this 
the greatest faculty of the human mind, both passionate 

40 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 

and tranquil. In its tranquil and purely pleasurable 
operation, it acts chiefly by creating out of many things, 
as they would have appeared in the description of an 
ordinary mind, detailed in unimpassioned succession, a 
oneness, even as nature, the greatest of poets, acts upon 
us, when we open our eyes upon an extended prospect. 
Thus the flight of Adonis in the dusk of the evening : — 

Look ! how a bright star shooteth from the sky ; 
So glides he in the night from Venus' eye ! 

How many images and feelings are here brought to- 
gether without effort and without discord, in the beauty 
of Adonis, the rapidity of his flight, the yearning, yet 
hopelessness, of the enamoured gazer, while a shadowy 
ideal character is thrown over the whole ! Or this power 
acts by impressing the stamp of humanity, and of human 
feelings, on inanimate or mere natural objects : — 

Lo ! here the gentle lark, weary of rest, 

From his moist cabinet mounts up on high, 

And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast 

The sun ariseth in his majesty, 

Who doth the world so gloriously behold, 

The cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold. 

Or again, it acts by so carrying on the eye of the reader 
as to make him almost lose the consciousness of words, — 
to make him see every thing flashed, as Wordsworth has 
grandly and appropriately said, — 

Flashed upon that inward eye 
Which is the bliss of solitude ; — 

and this without exciting any painful or laborious atten- 
tion, without any anatomy of description, (a fault not 
uncommon in descriptive poetry) — but with the sweet- 
ness and easy movement of nature. This energy is an 
absolute essential of poetry, and of itself would constitute 
a poet, though not one of the highest class ; — it is, however, 
a most hopeful S37mptom, and the Venus and Adonis is 
one continued specimen of it. 

In this beautiful poem there is an endless activity of 
thought in all the possible associations of thought with 
thought, thought with feeling, or with words, of feelings 
with feelings, and of words with words. 

Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 41 

Even as the sun, with purple-colour' d face. 
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn, 
Rose-cheek'd Adonis hied him to the chase : 
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn. 
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him, 
And like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him. 

Remark the humanizing imagery and circumstances of 
the first two lines, and the activity of thought in the play 
of words in the fourth line. The whole stanza presents at 
once the time, the appearance of the morning, and the two 
persons distinctly characterized, and in six simple verses 
puts the reader in possession of the whole argument of the 

Over one arm the lusty courser's rein. 
Under the other was the tender boy. 
Who blush' d and pouted in a dull disdain. 
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy. 
She red and hot, as coals of glowing fire. 
He red for shame, but frosty to desire : — 

This stanza and the two following afford good instances 
of that poetic power, which I mentioned above, of making 
every thing present to the imagination — both the forms, 
and the passions which modify those forms, either actually, 
as in the representations of love, or anger, or other human 
affections ; or imaginatively, by the different manner in 
which inanimate objects, or objects unimpassioned them- 
selves, are caused to be seen by the mind in moments of 
strong excitement, and according to the kind of the ex- 
citement, — whether of jealousy, or rage, or love, in the only 
appropriate sense of the word, or of the lower impulses of 
our nature, or finally of the poetic feeling itself. It is, 
perhaps, chiefly in the power of producing and reproduc- 
ing the latter that the poet stands distinct. 

The subject of the Venus and Adonis is unpleasing ; 
but the poem itself is for that very reason the more illustra- 
tive of Shakspeare. There are men who can write passages 
of deepest pathos and even sublimity on circumstances 
personal to themselves and stimulative of their own pas- 
sions ; but they are not, therefore, on this account poets. 
Read that magnificent burst of woman's patriotism and 
exultation, Deborah's song of victory ; it is glorious, but 
nature is the poet there. It is quite another matter to 
become all things and yet remain the same, — to make the 

42 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 

changeful god be felt in the river, the lion and the flame ; — 
this it is, that is the true imagination. Shakspeare writes 
in this poem, as if he were of another planet, charming 
you to gaze on the movements of Venus and Adonis, as 
you would on the twinkling dances of two vernal butterflies. 
Finally, in this poem and the Rape of Lucrece, Shak- 
speare gave ample proof of his possession of a most pro- 
found, energetic, and philosophical mind, without which 
he might have pleased, but could not have been a great 
dramatic poet. Chance and the necessity of his genius 
combined to lead him to the drama his proper province : 
in his conquest of which we should consider both the diffi- 
culties which opposed him, and the advantages by which 
he was assisted. 

Shakspeare' s Judgment equal to his Genius. 

Thus then Shakspeare appears, from his Venus and 
Adonis and Rape of Lucrece alone, apart from all his 
great works, to have possessed all the conditions of the 
true poet. Let me now proceed to destroy, as far as may 
be in my power, the popular notion that he was a great 
dramatist by mere instinct, that he grew immortal in his 
own despite, and sank below men of second or third-rate 
power, when he attempted aught beside the drama — 
even as bees construct their cells and manufacture their 
honey to admirable perfection ; but would in vain attempt 
to build a nest. Now this mode of reconciling a compelled 
sense of inferiority with a feeling of pride, began in a few 
pedants, who having read that Sophocles was the great 
model of tragedy, and Aristotle the infallible dictator of 
its rules, and finding that the Lear, Hamlet, Othello and 
other master-pieces were neither in imitation of Sophocles, 
nor in obedience to Aristotle, — and not having (with one 
or two exceptions) the courage to affirm, that the delight 
which their country received from generation to genera- 
tion, in defiance of the alterations of circumstances and 
habits, was wholly groundless, — took upon them, as a 
happy medium and refuge, to talk of Shakspeare as a sort 
of beautiful lusus natiirce, a delightful monster, — wild, 
indeed, and without taste or judgment, but like the 
inspired idiots so much venerated in the East, uttering, 

Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 43 

amid the strangest follies, the sublimest truths. In nine 
places out of ten in which I find his awful name mentioned, 
it is with some epithet of 'wild/ 'irregular,' 'pure child 
of nature,* &c. If all this be true, we must submit to it; 
though to a thinking mind it cannot but be painful to find 
any excellence, merely human, thrown out of all human 
analogy, and thereby leaving us neither rules for imita- 
tion, nor motives to imitate ; — but if false, it is a dangerous 
falsehood ; — for it affords a refuge to secret self-conceit, 
— enables a vain man at once to escape his reader's 
indignation by general swoln panegyrics, and merely by 
his ipse dixit to treat, as contemptible, what he has not 
intellect enough to comprehend, or soul to feel, without 
assigning any reason, or referring his opinion to any 
demonstrative principle ; — thus leaving Shakspeare as a 
sort of grand Lama, adored indeed, and his very excre- 
ments prized as relics, but with no authorit}^ or real 
influence. I grieve that every late voluminous edition of 
his works would enable me to substantiate the present 
charge with a variety of facts one tenth of which would 
of themselves exhaust the time allotted to me. Every 
critic, who has or has not made a collection of black 
letter books — in itself a useful and respectable amuse- 
ment, — puts on the seven-league boots of self-opinion, and 
strides at once from an illustrator into a supreme judge, 
and blind and deaf, fills his three-ounce phial at the waters 
of Niagara ; and determines positively the greatness of 
the cataract to be neither more nor less than his three- 
ounce phial has been able to receive. 

I think this a very serious subject. It is my earnest 
desire — my passionate endeavour, — to enforce at various 
times and by various arguments and instances the close 
and reciprocal connexion of just taste with pure morality. 
Without that acquaintance with the heart of man, or that 
docility and childlike gladness to be made acquainted 
with it, which those only can have, who dare look at their 
own hearts — and that with a steadiness which religion 
only has the power of reconciling with sincere humility ; 
— without this, and the modesty produced by it, I am 
deeply convinced that no man, however wide his erudition, 
however patient his antiquarian researches, can possibly 
understand, or be worthy of understanding, the writings 
of Shakspeare. 

44 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 

Assuredly that criticism of Shakspeare will alone be 
genial which is reverential. The Englishman, who without 
reverence, a proud and affectionate reverence, can utter 
the name of William Shakspeare, stands disquahfied for 
the ofi&ce of critic. He wants one at least of the very 
senses, the language of which he is to employ, and will 
discourse, at best, but as a blind man, while the whole 
harmonious creation of light and shade with all its subtle 
interchange of deepening and dissolving colours rises in 
silence to the silent flat of the uprising Apollo. However 
inferior in ability I may be to some who have followed me, 
I own I am proud that I was the first in time who pubhcly 
demonstrated to the full extent of the position, that the 
supposed irregularity and extravagances of Shakspeare 
were the mere dreams of a pedantry that arraigned the 
eagle because it had not the dimensions of the swan. In 
all the successive courses of lectures delivered by me, since 
my first attempt at the Royal Institution, it has been, and 
it still remains, my object, to prove that in aU points from 
the most important to the most minute, the judgment of 
Shakspeare is commensurate vv^ith his genius, — nay, that 
his genius reveals itself in his judgment, as in its most 
exalted form. And the more gladly do I recur to this 
subject from the clear conviction, that to judge aright, 
and with distinct consciousness of the grounds of our 
judgment, concerning the works of Shakspeare, implies 
the power and the means of judging rightly of aU other 
works of intellect, those of abstract science alone excepted. 

It is a painful truth that not only individuals, but even 
whole nations, are ofttimes so enslaved to the habits of 
their education and immediate circumstances, as not to 
judge disinterestedly even on those subjects, the very 
pleasure arising from which consists in its disinterested- 
ness, namely, on subjects of taste and polite literature. 
Instead of deciding concerning their own modes and 
customs by any rule of reason, nothing appears rational, 
becoming, or beautiful to them, but what coincides with 
the peculiarities of their education. In this narrow circle, 
individuals may attain to exquisite discrimination, as the 
French critics have done in their own literature ; but a 
true critic can no more be such without placing himself 
on some central point, from which he may command the 
whole, that is, some general rule, which, founded in reason. 

Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 45 

or the faculties common to all men, must therefore apply 
to each, — than an astronomer can explain the move- 
ments of the solar system without taking his stand in the 
sun. And let me remark, that this will not tend to produce 
despotism, but, on the contrary, true tolerance, in the 
critic. He will, indeed, require, as the spirit and substance 
of a work, something true in human nature itself, and 
independent of all circumstances ; but in the mode of 
applying it, he will estimate genius and judgment accord- 
ing to the felicity with which the imperishable soul of 
intellect shall have adapted itself to the age, the place, 
and the existing manners. The error he will expose, Ues 
in reversing this, and holding up the mere circumstances 
as perpetual to the utter neglect of the power which can 
alone animate them. For art cannot exist without, or 
apart from, nature ; and what has man of his own to give 
to his fellow man, but his own thoughts and feelings, and 
his observations, so far as they are modified by his own 
thoughts or feelings ? 

Let me, then, once more submit this question to minds 
emancipated alike from national, or party, or sectarian 
prejudice : — Are the plays of Shakspeare works of rude 
uncultivated genius, in which the splendour of the parts 
compensates, if aught can compensate, for the barbarous 
shapelessness and irregularity of the whole ? — Or is the 
form equally admirable with the matter, and the judg- 
ment of the great poet, not less deserving our wonder than 
his genius ? — Or, again, to repeat the question in other 
words : — Is Shakspeare a great dramatic poet on account 
only of those beauties and excellences which he possesses 
in common with the ancients, but with diminished claims 
to our love and honour to the full extent of his differences 
from them ? — Or are these very differences additional 
proofs of poetic wisdom, at once results and symbols of 
living power as contrasted with lifeless mechanism — of 
free and rival originality as contra-distinguished from 
servile imitation, or, more accurately, a blind copying of 
effects, instead of a true imitation, of the essential prin- 
ciples ? — Imagine not that I am about to oppose genius 
to rules. No ! the comparative value of these rules is the 
very cause to be tried. The spirit of poetry, like all other 
living powers, must of necessity circumscribe itself by 
rules, were it only to unite power with beauty. It must 

46 Shakspeare, a Poet Generally 

embody in order to reveal itself ; but a living body is oi 
necessity an organized one ; and what is organization but 
the connection of parts in and for a whole, so that each 
part is at once end and means ? — This is no discovery of 
criticism ; — it is a necessity of the human mind ; and all 
nations have felt and obeyed it, in the invention of metre, 
and measured sounds, as the vehicle and involucriim oi 
poetry — itself a fellow-growth from the same life, — even 
as the bark is to the tree ! 

No work of true genius dares want its appropriate form, 
neither indeed is there any danger of this. As it must 
not, so genius cannot, be lawless ; for it is even this that 
constitutes it genius — the power of acting creatively under 
laws of its ov/n origination. How then comes it that not 
only single Zoili, but whole nations have combined in 
unhesitating condemnation of our great dramatist, as a 
sort of African nature, rich in beautiful monsters — as a 
wild heath where islands of fertility look the greener from 
the surrounding waste, where the loveliest plants now 
shine out among unsightly weeds, and now are choked by 
their parasitic growth, so intertwined that we cannot dis- 
entangle the weed without snapping the flower ? — In this 
statement I have had no reference to the vulgar abuse of 
Voltaire,^ save as far as his charges are coincident with 
the decisions of Shakspeare's own commentators and (so 
they would tell you) almost idolatrous admirers. The trae 
ground of the mistake lies in the confounding mechanical 
regularity with organic form. The form is mechanic, when 
on any given material we impress a pre-determined form, 
not necessarily arising out of the properties of the material ; 
— as when to a mass of wet clay we give whatever shape 
we wish it to retain when hardened. The organic form, 
on the other hand, is innate ; it shapes, as it developes, 
itself from within, and the fulness of its development is 

1 Take a slight specimen of it. 

Je suis bien loin assurdment de justifier en tout la tragddie d'Haralet : c'est une piice 
grassier e et bar bare, qui ne serait pas suf>portee par la plus vile populace de la I'rance 
et de ritalie. Hamlei y devient fou au second acte, et sa maltressefolleau troisi^me ; 
le prince tue le pere de sa maitresse, feignant de tuer un rat, et I'heroine se jette dans 
la riviere. On fait sa fosse sur le theatre ; des fossoyeurs disent des quolibets dignes 
d'eux, en tenant dans leurs mains des tetes de morts ; le prince Hamlet rdpond a leurs 
^rossieretes abominables par des /dies non mains degcrAtantes. Pendant ce temps-Ik, 
un des acteurs fait la conquete de la Pologne. Hamlet, sa mere, et son beau-pere 
boivent ensemble sur le theatre ; on chante a table, on s'y querelle, on se bat, on se tue : 
en croirait que cet ouvrage est Ic fruit d£ V imagination dun sauvage ivre. Disserta- 
tion before Semiramis. 

This is not, perhaps, very like Hamlet ; but nothing can be more like Voltaire. Ed, 

Characteristics of Shakspeare's Dramas 47 

one and the same with the perfection of its outward form. 
Such as the Ufe is, such is the form. Nature, the prime 
genial artist, inexhaustible in diverse powers, is equally 
inexhaustible in forms ; — each exterior is the physiog- 
nomy of the being within, — its true image reflected and 
thrown out from the concave mirror ; — and even such 
is the appropriate excellence of her chosen poet, of our 
own Shakspeare, — himself a nature humanized, a genial 
understanding directing self-consciously a power and an 
implicit wisdom deeper even than our consciousness. 

I greatly dislike beauties and selections in general ; but 
as proof positive of his unrivalled excellence, I should like 
to try Shakspeare by this criterion. Make out your 
amplest catalogue of all the human faculties, as reason or 
the moral law, the will, the feeling of the coincidence of 
the two (a feeling sui generis et demonstratio demonstrati- 
onum) called the conscience, the understanding or prud- 
ence, wit, fancy, imagination, judgment, — and then of the 
objects on which these are to be employed, as the beauties, 
the terrors, and the seeming caprices of nature, the realities 
and the capabilities, that is, the actual and the ideal, of 
the human mind, conceived as an individual or as a social 
being, as in innocence or in guilt, in a play-paradise, or in 
a war-field of temptation ; — and then compare with Shak- 
speare under each of these heads all or any of the writers 
in prose and verse that have ever lived ! Who, that is 
competent to judge, doubts the result ? — And ask your 
own hearts, — ask your own common sense — to conceive 
the possibility of this man being — I say not, the drunken 
savage of that wretched sciolist, whom Frenchmen, to 
their shame, have honoured before their elder and better 
worthies, — but the anomalous, the wild, the irregular, 
genius of our daily criticism ! What ! are we to have 
miracles in sport ? — Or, I speak reverently, does God 
choose idiots by whom to convey divine truths to man ? 


Of the Characteristics of Shakspeare' s Dramas} 

In lectures, of which amusement forms a large part of the 
object, there are some peculiar difficulties. The architect 

1 For the most part communicated by Mr. Justice Coleridge. Ed. 

48 Characteristics of 

places his foundation out of sight, and the musician tunes 
his instrument before he makes his appearance ; but the 
lecturer has to try his chords in the presence of the assem- 
bly ; an operation not likely, indeed, to produce much 
pleasure, but yet indispensably necessary to a right under- 
standing of the subject to be developed. 

Poetry in essence is as familiar to barbarous as to 
civilized nations. The Laplander and the savage Indian 
are cheered by it as well as the inhabitants of London and 
Paris ; — its spirit takes up and incorporates surrounding 
materials, as a plant clothes itself with soil and climate, 
whilst it exhibits the working of a vital principle within 
independent of all accidental circumstances. And to judge 
with fairness of an author's works, we ought to distinguish 
what is inward and essential from what is outward and 
circumstantial. It is essential to poetry that it be simple, 
and appeal to the elements and primary laws of our nature ; 
that it be sensuous, and by its imagery elicit truth at a 
flash ; that it be impassioned, and be able to move our 
feelings and awaken our affections. In comparing different 
poets with each other, we should inquire which have 
brought into the fullest play our imagination and our 
reason, or have created the greatest excitement and pro- 
duced the completest harmony. If we consider great 
exquisiteness of language and sweetness of metre alone, it 
is impossible to deny to Pope the character of a delightful 
writer ; but whether he be a poet, must depend upon 
our definition of the word; and, doubtless, if every 
thing that pleases be poetry, Pope's satires and epistles 
must be poetry. This, I must say, that poetry, as 
distinguished from other modes of composition, does not 
rest in metre, and that it is not poetry, if it make no 
appeal to our passions or our imagination. One character 
belongs to all true poets, that they write from a principle 
within, not originating in any thing without ; and that 
the true poet's work in its form, its shapings, and its modi- 
fications, is distinguished from all other works that assume 
to belong to the class of poetry, as a natural from an 
artificial flower, or as the mimic garden of a child from an 
enamelled meadow. In the former the flowers are broken 
from their stems and stuck into the ground ; they are 
beautiful to the eye and fragrant to the sense, but their 
colours soon fade, and their odour is transient as the 

Shakspeare's Dramas 49 

smile of the planter ; — while the meadow may be 
visited again and again with renewed dehght ; its beauty 
is innate in the soil, and its bloom is of the freshness of 

The next ground of critical judgment, and point of com- 
parison, will be as to how far a given poet has been in- 
fluenced by accidental circumstances. As a living poet 
must surely write, not for the ages past, but for that in 
which he lives, and those which are to follow, it is, on the 
one hand, natural that he should not violate, and on the 
other, necessary that he should not depend on, the mere 
manners and modes of his day. See how little does Shak- 
speare leave us to regret that he was born in his particular 
age ! The great asra in modem times was what is called 
the Restoration of Letters ; — the ages preceding it are 
called the dark ages ; but it would be more wise, perhaps, 
to call them the ages in which we were in the dark. 
It is usually overlooked that the supposed dark period 
was not universal, but partial and successive, or alter- 
nate ; that the dark age of England was not the 
dark age of Italy, but that one country was in its 
light and vigour, whilst another was in its gloom and 
bondage. But no sooner had the Reformation sounded 
through Europe like the blast of an archangel's trumpet, 
than from king to peasant there arose an enthusiasm for 
knowledge ; the discovery of a manuscript became the 
subject of an embassy ; Erasmus read by moonlight, 
because he could not afford a torch, and begged a penny, 
not for the love of charity, but for the love of learning. 
The three great points of attention were religion, morals, and 
taste ; men of genius as well as men of learning, who in this 
age need to be so widely distinguished, then alike became 
copyists of the ancients ; and this, indeed, was the only 
way by which the taste of mankind could be improved, or 
their understandings informed. Whilst Dante imagined 
himself a humble follower of Virgil, and Ariosto of Homer, 
they were both unconscious of that greater power working 
within them, which in many points carried them beyond 
their supposed originals. All great discoveries bear the 
stamp of the age in which they are made ; — hence we per- 
ceive the effects of the purer religion of the moderns, visible 
for the most part in their lives ; and in reading their works 
we should not content ourselves with the mere narratives 

50 Characteristics of 

of events long since passed, but should learn to apply their 
maxims and conduct to ourselves. 

Having intimated that times and manners lend their 
form and pressure to genius, let me once more draw a slight 
parallel between the ancient and modern stage, the stages 
of Greece and of England. The Greeks were polytheists ; 
their religion was local ; almost the only object of all their 
knowledge, art and taste, was their gods ; and, accordingly, 
their productions were, if the expression may be allowed, 
statuesque, whilst those of the moderns are picturesque. 
The Greeks reared a structure, which in its parts, and as a 
whole, filled the mind with the calm and elevated im- 
pression of perfect beauty, and symmetrical proportion. 
The moderns also produced a whole, a more striking whole ; 
but it was by blending materials and fusing the parts 
together. And as the Pantheon is to York Minster or 
Westminster Abbey, so is Sophocles compared with Shak- 
speare ; in the one a completeness, a satisfaction, an 
excellence, on which the mind rests with complacency; 
in the other a multitude of interlaced materials, great and 
little, magnificent and mean, accompanied, indeed, with 
the sense of a falling short of perfection, and yet, at the 
same time, so promising of our social and individual pro- 
gression, that we would not, if we could, exchange it for 
that repose of the mind which dwells on the forms of sym- 
metry in the acquiescent admiration of grace. This 
general characteristic of the ancient and modem drama 
might be illustrated by a parallel of the ancient and modern 
music ; — the one consisting of melody arising from a suc- 
cession only of pleasing sounds, — the modern embracing 
harmony sJzo, the result of combination and the effect of a 

I have said, and I say it again, that great as was the 
genius of Shakspeare, his judgment was at least equal to it. 
Of this any one will be convinced, who attentively con- 
siders those points in which the dramas of Greece and 
England differ, from the dissimilitude of circumstances by 
which each was modified and influenced. The Greek stage 
had its origin in the ceremonies of a sacrifice, such as of the 
goat to Bacchus, whom we most erroneously regard as 
merely the jolly god of wine; — for among the ancients he 
was venerable, as the symbol of that power which acts 
without our consciousness in the vital energies of nature, — 

Shakspeare's Dramas 51 

the vinum mundi, — as Apollo was that of the conscious 
agency of our intellectual being. The heroes of old under 
the influences of this Bacchic enthusiasm performed more 
than human actions ; — hence tales of the favorite cham- 
pions soon passed into dialogue. On the Greek stage the 
chorus was always before the audience ; the curtain was 
never dropped, as we should say ; and change of place 
being therefore, in general, impossible, the absurd notion 
of condemning it merely as improbable in itself was never 
entertained by any one. If we can believe ourselves at 
Thebes in one act, we may believe ourselves at Athens in 
the next. If a story lasts twenty-four hours or twenty-four 
years, it is equally improbable. There seems to be no just 
boundary but what the feelings prescribe. But on the 
Greek stage where the same persons were perpetually 
before the audience, great judgment was necessary in 
venturing on any such change. The poets never, there- 
fore, attempted to impose on the senses by bringing places 
to men, but they did bring men to places, as in the well 
known instance in the Eumenides, where during an evident 
retirement of the chorus from the orchestra, the scene is 
changed to Athens, and Orestes is first introduced in the 
temple of Minerva, and the chorus of Furies come in after- 
wards in pursuit of him.^ 

In the Greek drama there were no formal divisions into 
scenes and acts ; there were no means, therefore, of allow- 
ing for the necessary lapse of time between one part of the 
dialogue and another, and unity of time in a strict sense 
was, of course, impossible. To overcome that difficulty of 
accounting for time, which is effected on the modern stage 
by dropping a curtain, the judgment and great genius of 
the ancients supplied music and measured motion, and 
with the lyric ode filled up the vacuity. In the story of the 
Agamemnon of iEschylus, the capture of Troy is supposed 
to be announced by a fire lighted on the Asiatic shore, and 
the transmission of the signal by successive beacons to 
Mycenae. The signal is first seen at the 21st line, and the 
herald from Troy itself enters at the 486th, and Agamemnon 
himself at the 783rd Une. But the practical absurdity of 

1 ^sch. Eumen. v. 230-239. NotandUm est, icenam jam Athenas translatam sic 
institui, ut primo Orestes solus conspiciatur in templo Minervce supplex ejus simula- 
crum venerans; paulo post autem euin consequantur Eumenides, dr»c. Schutz's note. 
The recessions of the chorus were termed fisTavaar da €li. There is another instance 
in the Ajax, v. 814. Ed. 

52 Characteristics of 

this was not felt by the audience, who, in imagination 
stretched minutes into hours, while they listened to the 
lofty narrative odes of the chorus which almost entirely 
filled up the interspace. Another fact deserves attention 
here, namely, that regularly on the Greek stage a drama, 
or acted story, consisted in reality of three dramas, called 
together a trilogy, and performed consecutively in the 
course of one day. Now you may conceive a tragedy of 
Shakspeare's as a trilogy connected in one single repre- 
sentation. Divide Lear into three parts, and each would 
be a play with the ancients ; or take the three .^schylean 
dramas of Agamemnon, and divide them into, or call them, 
as many acts, and they together would be one play. The 
first act would comprise the usurpation of ^Egisthus, and 
the murder of Agamemnon ; the second, the revenge of 
Orestes, and the murder of his mother ; and the third, the 
penance and absolution of Orestes ; — occupying a period of 
twenty-two years. 

The stage in Shakspeare's time was a naked room with a 
blanket for a curtain ; but he made it a field for monarchs. 
That law of unity, which has its foundations, not in the 
factitious necessity of custom, but in nature itself, the unity 
of feeling, is every where and at all times observed by Shak- 
speare in his plays. Read Romeo and Juliet ; — all is youth 
and spring ; — youth with its follies, its virtues, its precipit- 
ancies ; — spring with its odours, its flowers, and its transi- 
ency ; it is one and the same feeling that commences, goes 
through, and ends the play. The old men, the Capulets 
and the Montagues, are not common old men ; they have 
an eagerness, a heartiness, a vehemence, the effect of spring ; 
with Romeo, his change of passion, his sudden marriage, 
and his rash death, are all the effects of youth ; — whilst in 
Juhet love has all that is tender and melancholy in the 
nightingale, all that is voluptuous in the rose, with what- 
ever is sweet in the freshness of spring ; but it ends with 
a long deep sigh like the last breeze of the Italian evening. 
This unity of feeling and character pervades every drama of 

It seems to me that his plays are distinguished from 
those of aU other dramatic poets by the following char- 
acteristics : 

I. Expectation in preference to surprise. It is like the 
true reading of the passage ; — * God said, Let there be light, 

Shakspeare's Dramas 53 

and there was light ; ' — not there was light. As the feehng 
with which we startle at a shooting star compared with that 
of watching the sunrise at the pre-established moment, such 
and so low is surprise compared with expectation. 

2. Signal adherence to the great law of nature, that all 
opposites tend to attract and temper each other. Passion 
in Shakspeare generally displays libertinism, but involves 
morality ; and if there are exceptions to this, they are, in- 
dependently of their intrinsic value, all of them indicative 
of individual character, and, like the farewell admonitions 
of a parent, have an end beyond the parental relation. 
Thus the Countess's beautiful precepts to Bertram, by 
elevating her character, raise that of Helena her favorite, 
and soften dov/n the point in her which Shakspeare does 
not mean us not to see, but to see and to forgive, and at 
length to justify. And so it is in Polonius, who is the per- 
sonified memory of wisdom no longer actually possessed. 
This admirable character is always misrepresented on the 
stage. Shakspeare never intended to exhibit him as a 
bufioon; for although it was natural that Hamlet, — a 
young man of fire and genius, detesting formality, and dis- 
liking Polonius on political grounds, as imagining that he 
had assisted his uncle in his usurpation, — should express 
himself satirically, — yet this must not be taken as exactly 
the poet's conception of him. In Polonius a certain indura- 
tion of character had arisen from long habits of business ; 
but take his advice to Laertes, and Ophelia's reverence for 
his memory, and we shall see that he was meant to be repre- 
sented as a statesman somewhat past his faculties, — his 
recollections of Ufe all full of wisdom, and showing a know- 
ledge of human nature, whilst what immediately takes 
place before him, and escapes from him, is indicative of 

But as in Homer all the deities are in armour, even 
Venus ; so in Shakspeare all the characters are strong. 
Hence real folly and dulness are made by him the vehicles 
of wisdom. There is no difficulty for one being a fool to 
imitate a fool ; but to be, remain, and speak hke a wise man 
and a great wit, and yet so as to give a vivid representation 
of a veritable fool, — hie labor, hoc opus est. A drunken 
constable is not uncommon, nor hard to draw ; but see 
and examine what goes to make up a Dogberry. 

3. Keeping at all times in the high road of hfe. Shak- 

54 Characteristics of 

speare has no innocent adulteries, no interesting incests, 
no virtuous vice ; — he never renders that amiable which 
religion and reason alike teach us to detest, or clothes im- 
purity in the garb of virtue, like Beaumont and Fletcher, 
the Kotzebues of the day. Shakspeare's fathers are roused 
by ingratitude, his husbands stung by unfaithfulness ; in 
him, in short, the affections are wounded in those points in 
which all may, nay, must, feel.' Let the morality of Shak- 
speare be contrasted with that of the writers of his own, or 
the succeeding, age, or of those of the present day, who 
boast their superiority in this respect. No one can dispute 
that the result of such a comparison is altogether in favour 
of Shakspeare ; — even the letters of women of high rank 
in his age were often coarser than his writings. If he 
occasionally disgusts a keen sense of delicacy, he never 
injures the mind; he neither excites, nor flatters, passion, 
in order to degrade the subject of it; he does not use 
the faulty thing for a faulty purpose, nor carries on 
warfare against virtue, by causing wickedness to appear 
as no wickedness, through the medium of a morbid sym- 
pathy with the unfortunate. In Shakspeare vice never 
walks as in twilight ; nothing is purposely out of its place ; 
— he inverts not the order of nature and propriety, — does 
not make every magistrate a drunkard or glutton, nor 
every poor man meek, humane, and temperate ; he has no 
benevolent butchers, nor any sentimental rat-catchers. 

4. Independence of the ciramatic interest on the plot. 
The interest in the plot is always in fact on account of the 
characters, not vice versa, as in almost all other writers ; the 
plot is a mere canvass and no more. Hence arises the true 
justification of the same stratagem being used in regard to 
Benedict and Beatrice, — the vanity in each being alike. 
Take away from the Much Ado About Nothing all that 
which is not indispensable to the plot, either as having 
little to do with it, or, at best, like Dogberry and his com- 
rades, forced into the service, when any other less ingeni- 
ously absurd watchmen and night-constables would have 
answered the mere necessities of the action ; — take away 
Benedict, Beatrice, Dogberry, and the reaction of the 
former on the character of Hero, — and what will remain ? 
In other writers the main agent of the plot is always the 
prominent character ; in Shakspeare it is so, or is not so, 
as the character is in itself calculated, or not calculated, to 

Shakspeare's Dramas 55 

form the plot. Don John is the main-spring of the plot of 
this play ; but he is merely shown and then withdrawn. 

5. Independence of the interest on the story as the 
ground-work of the plot. Hence Shakspeare never took 
the trouble of inventing stories. It was enough for him to 
select from those that had been already invented or re- 
corded such as had one or other, or both, of two recom- 
mendations, namely, suitableness to his particular purpose, 
and their being parts of popular tradition, — names of which 
we had often heard, and of their fortunes, and as to which 
all we wanted was, to see the man himself. So it is just the 
man himself, the Lear, the Shylock, the Richard, that 
Shakspeare makes us for the first time acquainted with. 
Omit the first scene in Lear, and yet every thing wiU re- 
main ; so the first and second scenes in the Merchant of 
Venice. Indeed it is universally true. 

6. Interfusion of the lyrical — that which in its very 
essence is poetical — not only with the dramatic, as in the 
plays of Metastasio, where at the end of the scene comes 
the aria as the exit speech of the character, — but also in and 
through the dramatic. Songs in Shakspeare are intro- 
duced as songs only, just as songs are in real life, beautifully 
as some of them are characteristic of the person who has 
sung or called for them, as Desdemona's 'Willow,' and 
Ophelia's wild snatches, and the sweet caroUings in As You 
Like It. But the whole of the Midsummer Night's Dream 
is one continued specimen of the dramatized lyrical. And 
observe how exquisitely the dramatic of Hotspur ; — 

Marry, and I'm glad on't with all my heart ; 
I'd rather be a kitten and cry — mew, &c. 

melts away into the lyric of Mortimer ; — 

I understand thy looks : that pretty Welsh 

Which thou pourest down from these swelling heavens, 

I am too perfect in, &c. 

Henry IV. part i. act hi. sc. i. 

7. The characters of the dramatis personce, like those 
in real hfe, are to be inferred by the reader ; — they are 
not told to him. And it is well worth remarking that 
Shakspeare's characters, like those in real life, are very 
commonly misunderstood, and almost always understood 
by different persons in different ways. The causes are 

56 Outline of an Introductory 

the same in either case. If you take only what the friends 
of the character say, you may be deceived, and still more 
so, if that which his enemies say ; nay, even the character 
himself sees himself through the medium of his character, 
and not exactly as he is. Take all together, not omitting 
a shrewd hint from the clown or the fool, and perhaps your 
impression will be right ; and you may know whether you 
have in fact discovered the poet's own idea, by all the 
speeches receiving light from it, and attesting its reality 
by reflecting it. 

Lastly, in Shakspeare the heterogeneous is united, as it 
is in nature. You must not suppose a pressure or passion 
always acting on or in the character ! — passion in Shak- 
speare is that by which the individual is distinguished 
from others, not that which makes a different kind of him. 
Shakspeare followed the main march of the human affec- 
tions. He entered into no analysis of the passions or faiths 
of men, but assured himself that such and such passions 
and faiths were grounded in our common nature, and not 
in the mere accidents of ignorance or disease. This is an 
important consideration, and constitutes our Shakspeare 
the morning star, the guide and the pioneer, of true 

Outline of 



Of that species of writing termed tragi-comedy, much has 
been produced and doomed to the shelf. Shakspeare's 
comic are continually re-acting upon his tragic characters. 
Lear, wandering amidst the tempest, has all his feelings 
of distress increased by the overflowings of the wild wit 
of the Fool, as vinegar poured upon wounds exacerbates 
their pain. Thus even his comic humour tends to the 
developement of tragic passion. 

The next characteristic of Shakspeare is his keeping at 
all times in the high road of life, &c.^ Another evidence 
of his exquisite judgment is, that he seizes hold of popular 

J See the foregoing Essay. S. C. 

Lecture upon Shakspeare 57 

tales ; Lear and the Merchant of Venice were popular 
tales, but are so excellently managed, that both are the 
representations of men in all countries and of all times. 

His dramas do not arise absolutely out of some one ex- 
traordinary circumstance, the scenes may stand independ- 
ently of any such one connecting incident, as faithful 
representations of men and manners. In his mode of 
drawing characters there are no pompous descriptions of 
a man by himself ; his character is to be drawn, as in real 
life, from the whole course of the play, or out of the mouths 
of his enemies or friends. This may be exemplified in 
Polonius, whose character has been often misrepresented. 
Shakspeare never intended him for a buffoon, &c.^ 

Another excellence of Shakspeare in which no writer 
equals him, is in the language of nature. So correct is 
it, that we can see ourselves in every page. The style and 
manner have also that felicity, that not a sentence can 
be read, without its being discovered if it is Shaksperian. 
In observation of living characters — of landlords and pos- 
tilions Fielding has great excellence ; but in drawing 
from his own heart, and depicting that species of character, 
which no observation could teach, he failed in comparison 
with Richardson, who perpetually places himself, as it 
were, in a day-dream. Shakspeare excels in both. Witness 
the accuracy of character in Juliet's Name ; while for the 
great characters of lago, Othello, Hamlet, Richard III., 
to which he could never have seen any thing similar, he 
seems invariably to have asked himself. How should I act 
or speak in such circumstances ? His comic characters are 
also peculiar. A drunken constable was not uncommon ; 
but he makes folly a vehicle for wit, as in Dogberry : every 
thing is a sub-stratum on which his genius can erect the 
mightiest superstructure. 

To distinguish that which is legitimate in Shakspeare 
from what does not belong to him, we must observe his 
varied images symbolical of novel truth, thrusting by, 
and seeming to trip up each other, from an impetuosity of 
thought, producing a flowing metre and seldom closing 
with the line. In Pericles, a play written fifty years before, 
but altered by Shakspeare, his additions may be recognised 

1 See the Notes on Hamlet, which contain the same general view of the character of 
Polonius. As there are a few additional hints in the present report, I have thought it 
worth printing. S. C. 

58 Outline of an Introductory Lecture 

to half a line, from the metre, which has the same perfec- 
tion in the flowing continuity of interchangeable metrical 
pauses in his earliest plays, as in Love's Labour's Lost.^ 
Lastly contrast his morality with the writers of his own 
or of the succeeding age, &c.2 If a man speak injuriously 
of our friend, our vindication of him is naturally warm. 
Shakspeare has been accused of profaneness. I for my 
part have acquired from perusal of him, a habit of looking 
into my own heart, and am confident that Shakspeare is 
an author of all others the most calculated to make his 
readers better as well as wiser. 

Shakspeare, possessed of wit, humour, fancy and imagi- 
nation, built up an outward world from the stores within 
his mind, as the bee finds a hive ^ from a thousand sweets 
gathered from a thousand flowers. He was not only a 
great poet, but a great philosopher. Richard IIL, lago, and 
Falstaff are men who reverse the order of things, who place 
intellect at the head, whereas it ought to follow, Hke Geo- 
metry, to prove and to confirm. No man, either hero or saint, 
ever acted from an unmixed motive ; for let him do what 
he will rightly, still Conscience whispers "it is your duty." 
Richard, laughing at conscience and sneering at religion, 
felt a confidence in his intellect, which urged him to commit 
the most horrid crimes, because he felt himself, although 
inferior in form and shape, superior to those around him ; 
he felt he possessed a power, which they had not. lago, 
on the same principle, conscious of superior intellect, gave 
scope to his envy, and hesitated not to ruin a gallant, open 
and generous friend in the moment of felicity, because he 
was not promoted as he expected. Othello was superior 
in place, but lago felt him to be inferior in intellect, and 
unrestrained by conscience, trampled upon him. — Falstaff, 
not a degraded man of genius, like Burns, but a man of 
degraded genius, with the same consciousness of superiority 
to his companions, fastened himself on a young Prince, 

1 Lamb, comparing Fletcher with Shakspeare, writes thus : " Fletcher's ideas moved 
slow ; his versification, though sweet, is tedious, it stops at ever}' turn ; he lays line 
upon line, making up one after the other, adding image to image so deliberately, that we 
see their junctures. Shakspeare mingles every thing, runs line into line, embarrasses 
sentences and metaphors ; before one idea has burst its shell, another is hatched and 
clamorous for disclosure." Characters of Dram. Writers, contetfip. with 

~ See the foregoing Essay. 

3 There must have been some mistake in the report of this sentence, unless there was 
a momentary lapse of mind on the part of the lecturer. 

Order of Shakspeare's Plays 59 

to prove how much his influence on an heir apparent 
would exceed that of a statesman. With this view he 
hesitated not to adopt the most contemptible of all char- 
acters, that of an open and professed liar : even his sen- 
suality was subservient to his intellect ; for he appeared 
to drink sack, that he might have occasion to show off his 
wit. One thing, however, worthy of observation, is the 
perpetual contrast of labour in Falstaff to produce wit, 
with the ease with which Prince Henry parries his shafts ; 
and the final contempt which such a character deserves 
and receives from the young king, when Falstaff exhibits 
the struggle of inward determination with an outward 
show of humility. 


Various attempts have been made to arrange the plays 
of Shakspeare, each according to its priority in time, by 
proofs derived from external documents. How unsuccess- 
ful these attempts have been might easily be shewn, not 
only from the widel}^ different results arrived at by men, all 
deeply versed in the black-letter books, old plays, pam- 
phlets, manuscript records and catalogues of that age, but 
also from the fallacious and unsatisfactory nature of the 
facts and assumptions on which the evidence rests. In that 
age, when the press was chiefly occupied with controversial 
or practical divinity, — when the law, the church and the 
state engrossed all honour and respectability, — when a 
degree of disgrace, levior qucedam infamicB macula, was 
attached to the publication of poetry, and even to have 
sported with the Muse, as a private relaxation, was sup- 
posed to be — a venial fault, indeed, yet — something 
beneath the gravity of a wise man, — when the professed 
poets were so poor, that the very expenses of the press 
demanded the Uberality of some wealthy individual, so that 
two thirds of Spenser's poetic works, and those most highly 
praised by his learned admirers and friends, remained for 
many years in manuscript, and in manuscript perished, — 
when the amateurs of the stage were comparatively few, 
and therefore for the greater part more or less known to 
each other, — when we know that the plays of Shakspeare, 

6o Order of Shakspeare's Plays 

both during and after his Ufe, were the property of the stage, 
and pubUshed by the players, doubtless according to their 
notions of acceptability with the visitants of the theatre, — ■ 
in such an age, and under such circumstances, can an 
allusion or reference to any drama or poem in the publica- 
tion of a contemporary be received as conclusive evidence, 
that such drama or poem had at that time been published ? 
Or, further, can the priority of publication itself prove any 
thing in favour of actually prior composition ? 

We are tolerably certain, indeed, that the Venus and 
Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece, were his two earliest 
poems, and though not printed until 1593, in the twenty- 
ninth year of his age, yet there can be little doubt that they 
had remained by him in manuscript many years. For Mr. 
Malone has made it highly probable, that he had com- 
menced a writer for the stage in 1591, when he was twenty- 
seven years old, and Shakspeare himself assures us that the 
Venus and Adonis was the first heir of his invention.^ 

Baffled, then, in the attempt to derive any satisfaction 
from outward documents, we may easily stand excused if 
we turn our researches towards the internal evidences 
furnished by the writings themselves, with no other 
positive data than the known facts, that the Venus and 
Adonis was printed in 1593, the Rape of Lucrece in 1594, 
and that the Romeo and Juliet had appeared in 1595, — 
and with no other presumptions than that the poems, his 
very first productions, were written many years earlier, — 
(for who can believe that Shakspeare could have remained 
to his twenty-ninth or thirtieth year without attempting 
poetic composition of any kind ?) — and that between these 
and Romeo and Juliet there had intervened one or two 
other dramas, or the chief materials, at least, of them, 
although they may very possibly have appeared after the 
success of the Romeo and Juliet and some other circum- 
stances had given the poet an authority with the pro- 
prietors, and created a prepossession in his favour with the 
theatrical audiences. 

1 But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble 
a godfather, &c. 

Dedication of the V. and A. to Lord Southampton. 

Order of Shakspeare's Plays 6i 


First Epoch. 

The London Prodigal. 


Henry VI., three parts, first edition. 

The old King John. 

Edward III. 

The old Taming of the Shrew. 

AH these are transition-works, Uehergangswerke ; not his, 
yet of him. 

Second Epoch. 

All's Well That Ends Well ; — but afterwards worked 

up afresh (umgearbeitet) , especially Parolles. 
The Two Gentlemen of Verona ; a sketch. 
Romeo and Juliet ; first draft of it. 

Third Epoch 

rises into the full, although youthful, Shakspeare ; it was 
the negative period of his perfection. 

Love's Labour's Lost. 

Twelfth Night. 

As You Like It. 

Midsummer Night's Dream. 

Richard II. 

Henry IV. and V. 

Henry VIII. ; Gelegenheitsgedicht. 

Romeo and Juliet, as at present. 

Merchant of Venice. 

Fourth Epoch. 
Much Ado About Nothing. 
Merry Wives of Windsor ; first edition. 
Henry VI. ; rifacimento. 

Fifth Epoch. 

The period of beauty was now past ; and that of dimrrjs 
and grandeur succeeds. 



62 Order of Shakspeare's Plays 


Timon of Athens ; an after vibration of Hamlet, 

Troilus and Cressida ; Uebergang in die Ironie, 

The Roman Plays. 

King John, as at present. 

Merry Wives of Windsor.^ ... 

Taming of the Shrew. j ^^^^<^^^^^^^^' 

Measure for Measure. 



Winter's Tale. 



Shakspeare's earliest dramas I take to be. 
Love's Labour's Lost. 
All's Well That Ends WelL 
Comedy of Errors. 
Romeo and Juliet, 

In the second class I reckon 

Midsummer Night's Dream. 
As You Like It. 
Twelfth Night. 

In the third, as indicating a greater energy — not merely 
of poetry, but — of all the world of thought, yet stiU \vith 
some of the grov/ing pains, and the awkwardness of growth, 
I place 

Troilus and Cressida. 


Merchant of Venice. 

Much Ado About Nothing. 

Taming of the Shrew. 

In the fourth, I place the plays containing the greatest 
characters ; 


And lastly, the historic dramas, in order to be able to show 

Order of Shakspeare's Plays 63 

my reasons for rejecting some whole plays, and very many 
scenes in others. 


I think Shakspeare's earliest dramatic attempt — ^perhaps 
even prior in conception to the Venus and Adonis, and 
planned before he left Stratford — was Love's Labour's 
Lost. Shortly afterwards I suppose Pericles and certain 
scenes in Jeronymo to have been produced ; and in the 
same epoch, I place the Winter's Tale and Cymbeline, 
differing from the Pericles by the entire rifacimento of it, 
when Shakspeare's celebrity as poet, and his interest, no 
less than his influence as manager, enabled him to bring 
forward the laid by labours of his youth. The example 
of Titus Andronicus, which, as well as Jeronymo, was 
most popular in Shakspeare's first epoch, had led the 
young dramatist to the lawless mixture of dates and 
manners. In this same epoch I should place the Comedy 
of Errors, remarkable as being the only specimen of 
poetical farce in our language, that is, intentionally such ; 
so that all the distinct kinds of drama, which might be 
educed a priori, have their representatives in Shakspeare's 
works. I say intentionally such ; for many of Beaumont 
and Fletcher's plays, and the greater part of Ben Jonson's 
comedies are farce-plots. I add All's Well that Ends 
Well, originally intended as the counterpart of Love's 
Labour's Lost, Taming of the Shrew, Midsummer Night's 
Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Romeo and Juliet. 

Second Epoch. 
Richard IL 
King John. 

Henry VL, — rifacimento only. 
Richard in. 

Third Epoch. 
Henry IV. 
Henry V. 

Merry Wives of Wmdsor. 

Henry VIII., — a sort of historical masque, or show 

64 Notes on the Tempest 

Fourth Epoch 

gives all the graces and facilities of a genius in full posses- 
sion and habitual exercise of power, and peculiarly of the 
feminine, the lady's character. 


As You Like It. 

Merchant of Venice. 

Twelfth Night. 
and, finally at its very point of culmination, — 





Last Epoch, 

when the energies of intellect in the cycle of genius were, 
though in a rich and more potentiated form, becoming 
predominant over passion and creative self -manifestation. 

Measure for Measure. 

Timon of Athens. 


Julius Caesar. 

Antony and Cleopatra. 

Troilus and Cressida. 
Merciful, wonder-making Heaven ! what a man was 
this Shakspeare ! Myriad-minded, indeed, he was. 


There is a sort of improbability with which we are shocked 
in dramatic representation, not less than in a narrative of 
real life. Consequently, there must be rules respecting it ; 
and as rules are nothing but means to an end previously 
ascertained — (inattention to which simple truth has been 
the occasion of all the pedantry of the French school), — 
we must first determine what the immediate end or object 
of the drama is. And here, as I have previously remarked, 
I find two extremes of critical decision ; — the French, 
which evidently presupposes that a perfect delusion is to 
be aimed at, — an opinion which needs no fresh confutation ; 
and the exact opposite to it, brought forward by Dr. 

Notes on the Tempest 65 

Johnson, who supposes the auditors throughout in the full 
reflective knowledge of the contrary. In evincing the 
impossibility of delusion, he makes no sufficient allowance 
for an intermediate state, which I have before distin- 
guished by the term, illusion, and have attempted to 
illustrate its quality and character by reference to our 
mental state, when dreaming. In both cases we simply 
do not judge the imagery to be unreal ; there is a negative 
reality, and no more. Whatever, therefore, tends to 
prevent the mind from placing itself, or being placed, 
gradually in that state in which the images have such 
negative realitj^ for the auditor, destroys this illusion, and 
is dramatically improbable. 

Now the production of this effect — a sense of improba- 
bility — will depend on the degree of excitement in which 
the mind is supposed to be. Many things would be intoler- 
able in the first scene of a play, that would not at all 
interrupt our enjoyment in the height of the interest, 
when the narrow cockpit may be made to hold 

The vasty field of France, or we may cram 
Within its wooden O the very casques 
That did affright the air at Agincourt. 

Again, on the other hand, many obvious improbabilities 
will be endured, as belonging to the groundwork of the 
story rather than to the drama itself, in the first scenes, 
which would disturb or disentrance us from all illusion in 
the acme of our excitement ; as for instance, Lear's 
division of his kingdom, and the banishment of Cordelia. 
But, although the other excellences of the drama besides 
this dramatic probability, as unity of interest, with 
distinctness and subordination of the characters, and 
appropriateness of style, are all, so far as they tend to 
increase the inward excitement, means towards accom- 
plishing the chief end, that of producing and supporting 
this willing illusion, — yet they do not on that account 
cease to be ends themselves ; and we must remember that, 
as such, they carry their own justification with them, as 
long as they do not contravene or interrupt the total 
illusion. It is not even always, or of necessity, an objection 
to them, that they prevent the illusion from rising to as 
great a height as it might otherwise have attained ; — it is 
enough that they are simply compatible with as high a 

66 Notes on the Tempest 

degree of it as is requisite for the purpose. Nay, upon 
particular occasions, a palpable improbability may be 
hazarded by a great genius for the express purpose of 
keeping down the interest of a merely instrumental scene, 
which would otherwise make too great an impression for 
the harmony of the entire illusion. Had the panorama 
been invented in the time of Pope Leo X., Raffael would 
still, I doubt not, have smiled in contempt at the regret, 
that the broom-twigs and scrubby bushes at the back of 
some of his grand pictures were not as probable trees as 
those in the exhibition. 

The Tempest is a specimen of the purely romantic 
drama, in which the interest is not historical, or depen- 
dent upon fidelity of portraiture, or the natural connexion 
of events, — but is a birth of the imagination, and rests 
only on the coaptation and union of the elements granted 
to, or assumed by, the poet. It is a species of drama 
which owes no allegiance to time or space, and in which, 
therefore, errors of chronology and geography — no mortal 
sins in any species — are venial faults, and count for 
nothing. It addresses itself entirely to the imaginative 
faculty ; and although the illusion may be assisted by the 
effect on the senses of the complicated scenery and decora- 
tions of modern times, yet this sort of assistance is danger- 
ous. For the principal and only genuine excitement ought 
to come from within, — from the moved and sympathetic 
imagination ; whereas, where so much is addressed to the 
mere external senses of seeing and hearing, the spiritual 
vision is apt to languish, and the attraction from without 
will withdraw the mind from the proper and only legitimate 
interest which is intended to spring from within. 

The romance opens with a busy scene admirably appro- 
priate to the kind of drama, and giving, as it were, the 
key-note to the whole harmony. It prepares and initiates 
the excitement required for the entire piece, and yet does 
not demand any thing from the spectators, which their 
previous habits had not fitted them to understand. It is 
the bustle of a tempest, from which the real horrors are 
abstracted ; — therefore it is poetical, though not in strict- 
ness natural — (the distinction to which I have so often 
alluded) — and is purposely restrained from concentering 
the interest on itself, but used merely as an induction or 
tuning for what is to foUow. 

Notes on the Tempest 67 

In the second scene, Prospero's speeches, till the entrance 
of Ariel, contain the finest example, I remember, of retro- 
spective narration for the purpose of exciting immediate 
interest, and putting the audience in possession of all the 
information necessary for the understanding of the plot.^ 
Observe, too, the perfect probability of the moment chosen 
by Prospero (the very Shakspeare himself, as it were, of 
the tempest) to open out the truth to his daughter, his own 
romantic bearing, and how completely any thing that might 
have been disagreeable to us in the magician, is reconciled 
and shaded in the humanity and natural feelings of the 
father. In the very first speech of Miranda the simplicity 
and tenderness of her character are at once laid open ; — 
it would have been lost in direct contact with the agitation 
of the first scene. The opinion once prevailed, but, happily, 
is now abandoned, that Fletcher alone wrote for women ; — 
the truth is, that with very few, and those partial, excep- 
tions, the female characters in the plays of Beaumont and 
Fletcher are, when of the light kind, not decent ; when 
heroic, complete viragos. But in Shakspeare all the 
elements of womanhood are holy, and there is the sweet, 
yet dignified feehng of all that continuates society, as sense 
of ancestry and of sex, with a purity unassailable by 
sophistry, because it rests not in the analytic processes, 
but in that same equipoise of the faculties, during which 
the feelings are representative of all past experience, — not 
of the individual only, but of all those by whom she has 
been educated, and their predecessors even up to the first 
mother that lived. Shakspeare saw that the want of pro- 
minence, which Pope notices for sarcasm, was the blessed 
beauty of the woman's character, and knew that it arose not 
from any deficiency, but from the more exquisite harmony 
of aU the parts of the moral being constituting one living 
total of head and heart. He has drawn it, indeed, in all 
its distinctive energies of faith, patience, constancy, forti- 

1 Pro. Mark his condition, and th' event ; then tell me, 

If th\^ might be a brother. 
Mira. I should sin, 

To think but nobly of my grandmother ; 
Good wombs have bore bad sons. 
Pro. Now the condition, &c. 

Theobald has a note upon this passage, and suggests that Shakspeare placed it 
thus :— 

Pro. Good wombs have bore bad sons,— 
Now the condition. 
Mr. Coleridge writes in the margin: 'I cannot but believe that Theobald is quite 
right,'— ^<^. ^ 

68 Notes on the Tempest 

tude, — shown in all of them as follov/ing the heart, which 
gives its results by a nice tact and happy intuition, without 
the intervention of the discursive faculty, sees aU things in 
and by the hght of the affections, and errs, if it ever err, in 
the exaggerations of love alone. In all the Shakspearian 
women there is essentially the same foundation and prin- 
ciple ; the distinct individuahty and variety are merely 
the result of the modification of circumstances, whether in 
Miranda the maiden, in Imogen the wife, or in Katherine 
the queen. 

But to return. The appearance and characters of the 
super or ultra-natural servants are finely contrasted. Ariel 
has in every thing the airy tint which gives the name ; and 
it is worthy of remark that Miranda is never directly 
brought into comparison with Ariel, lest the natural and 
human of the one and the supernatural of the other should 
tend to neutralize each other ; Caliban, on the other hand, 
is all earth, all condensed and gross in feelings and images ; 
he has the dawnings of understanding without reason or 
the moral sense, and in him, as in some brute animals, this 
advance to the intellectual faculties, without the moral 
sense, is marked by the appearance of vice. For it is in 
the primacy of the moral being only that man is truly 
human ; in his intellectual powers he is certainly ap- 
proached by the brutes, and, man's whole system duly con- 
sidered, those powers cannot be considered other than 
means to an end, that is, to morality. 

In this scene, as it proceeds, is displayed the impression 
made by Ferdinand and Miranda on each other ; it is love 
at first sight ; — 

at the first sight 
They have chang'd eyes : — 

and it appears to me, that in all cases of real love, it is at 
one moment that it takes place. That moment may have 
been prepared by previous esteem, admiration, or even 
affection, — yet love seems to require a momentary act of 
vohtion, by which a tacit bond of devotion is imposed, — 
a bond not to be thereafter broken without violating what 
should be sacred in our nature. How finely is the true 
Shakspearian scene contrasted with Dryden's vulgar 
alteration of it in which a mere ludicrous psychological 
experiment, as it were, is tried — displaying nothing but 

Notes on the Tempest 69 

indelicacy without passion. Prospero's interruption of 
the courtship has often seemed to me to have no sufficient 
motive ; still his alleged reason — 

lest too light winning 
Make the prize light — 

is enough for the ethereal connections of the romantic 
imagination, although it would not be so for the historical.^ 
The whole courting scene, indeed, in the beginning of the 
third act, between the lovers, is a masterpiece ; and the 
first dawn of disobedience in the mind of Miranda to the 
command of her father is very finely drawn, so as to seem 
the working of the Scriptural command Thou shall leave 
father and mother, Sec. O ! with what exquisite purity this 
scene is conceived and executed ! Shakspeare may some- 
times be gross, but I boldly say that he is always moral and 
modest. Alas ! in this our day decency of manners is 
preserved at the expense of morality of heart, and delicacies 
for vice are allowed, whilst grossness against it is hypo- 
critically, or at least morbidly, condemned. 

In this play are admirably sketched the vices generally 
accompanying a low degree of civilization ; and in the first 
scene of the second act Shakspeare has, as in many other 
places, shown the tendency in bad men to indulge in scorn 
and contemptuous expressions, as a mode of getting rid of 
their own uneasy feelings of inferiority to the good, and 
also, by making the good ridiculous, of rendering the 
transition of others to wickedness easy. Shakspeare never 
puts habitual scorn into the mouths of other than bad men, 
as here in the instances of Antonio and Sebastian. The 
scene of the intended assassination of Alonzo and Gonzalo 
is an exact counterpart of the scene between Macbeth and 
his lady, only pitched in a lower key throughout, as de- 
signed to be frustrated and concealed, and exhibiting the 
same profound management in the manner of familiarizing 
a mind, not immediately recipient, to the suggestion of 
guilt, by associating the proposed crime with something 
ludicrous or out of place, — something not habitually matter 
of reverence. By this kind of sophistry the imagination 

1 Fer. Yes, faith, and all his Lords, the Duke of Milan, 

And his brave son, being twain. 
Theobald remarks that no body was lost in the wreck ; and yet that no such character 
is introduced in the fable, as the Duke of Milan's son. Mr. C. notes : ' Must not 
Ferdinand have believed he was lost in the fleet that the tempest scattered ? '—Ed. 

yo Notes on the Tempest 

and fancy are first bribed to contemplate the suggested 
act, and at length to become acquainted with it. Observe 
how the effect of this scene is heightened by contrast with 
another counterpoint of it in low life, — that between the 
conspirators Stephano, Caliban, and Trinculo in the second 
scene of the third act, in which there are the same essential 

In this play and in this scene of it are also shown the 
springs of the vulgar in politics, — of that kind of politics 
which is inwoven with human nature. In his treatment 
of this subject, wherever it occurs, Shakspeare is quite 
peculiar. In other writers we find the particular opinions 
of the individual ; in Massinger it is rank republicanism ; 
in Beaumont and Fletcher even jure divino principles are 
carried to excess ; — but Shakspeare never promulgates any 
party tenets. He is always the philosopher and the 
moralist, but at the same time with a profound veneration 
for all the established institutions of society, and for those 
classes which form the permanent elements of the state — 
especially never introducing a professional character, as 
such, otherwise than as respectable. If he must have any 
name, he should be styled a philosophical aristocrat, delight- 
ing in those hereditary institutions which have a tendency 
to bind one age to another, and in that distinction of ranks, 
of which, although few may be in possession, all enjoy the 
advantages. Hence, again, you will observe the good 
nature with which he seems always to make sport with the 
passions and follies of a mob, as with an irrational animal. 
He is never angry with it, but hugely content with holding 
up its absurdities to its face ; and sometimes you may 
trace a tone of almost affectionate superiority, something 
like that in which a father speaks of the rogueries of a child. 
See the good-humoured way in which he describes Stephano 
passing from the most licentious freedom to absolute 
despotism over Trinculo and Caliban. The truth is, Shak- 
speare's characters are all genera intensely individualized ; 
the results of meditation, of which observation supplied 
the drapery and the colours necessary to combine them 
with each other. He had virtually surveyed all the great 
component powers and impulses of human nature, — had 
seen that their different combinations and subordinations 
were in fact the individualizers of men, and showed how 
their harmony was produced by reciprocal disproportions 

Notes on Love's Labour's Lost 71 

of excess or deficiency. The language in which these 
truths are expressed was not drawn from any set fashion, 
but from the profoundest depths of his moral being, and is 
therefore for all ages. 


The characters in this play are either impersonated out of 
Shakspeare's own multiformity by imaginative self-position 
or out of such as a country town and schoolboy's observa- 
tion might supply, — the curate, the schoolmaster, the 
Armado, (who even in my time was not extinct in the 
cheaper inns of North Wales) and so on. The satire is 
chiefly on follies of words. Biron and Rosaline are 
evidently the pre-existent state of Benedict and Beatrice, 
and so, perhaps, is Boyet of Lafeu, and Costard of the 
Tapster in Measure for Measure ; and the frequency of 
the rhymes, the sweetness as well as the smoothness of the 
metre, and the number of acute and fancifully illustrated 
aphorisms, are all as they ought to be in a poet's youth. 
True genius begins by generalizing and condensing ; it 
ends in realizing and expanding. It first collects the 

Yet if this juvenile drama had been the only one extant 
of our Shakspeare, and we possessed the tradition only of 
his riper works, or accounts of them in writers who had not 
even mentioned this play, — how many of Shakspeare's 
char»acteristic features might we not still have discovered 
in Love's Labour's Lost, though as in a portrait taken of 
him in his boyhood ? 

I can never sufficiently admire the wonderful activity 
of thought throughout the whole of the first scene of the 
play, rendered natural, as it is, by the choice of the char- 
acters, and the whimsical determination on which the 
drama is founded. A whimsical determination certainly ; 
— yet not altogether so very improbable to those who are 
conversant in the history of the middle ages, with their 
Courts of Love, and all that lighter drapery of chivalry, 
which engaged even mighty kings with a sort of serio-comic 
interest, and may well be supposed to have occupied more 
completely the smaller princes, at a time when the noble's 
or prince's court contained the only theatre of the domain 

72 Notes on Love's Labour's Lost 

or principality. This sort of story, too, was admirably 
suited to Shakspeare's times, when the Enghsh court was 
still the foster-mother of the state, and the muses ; and 
when, in consequence, the courtiers, and men of rank and 
fashion, affected a display of wit, point, and sententious 
observation, that would be deemed intolerable at present, 
— but in which a hundred years of controversy, involving 
every great political, and every dear domestic, interest, had 
trained all but the lowest classes to participate. Add to 
this the very style of the sermons of the time, and the 
eagerness of the Protestants to distinguish themselves by 
long and frequent preaching, and it will be found that, 
from the reign of Henry VIII. to the abdication of James 
II. no country ever received such a national education as 

Hence the comic matter chosen in the first instance is a 
ridiculous imitation or apery of this constant striving after 
logical precision, and subtle opposition of thoughts, to- 
gether with a making the most of every conception or image, 
by expressing it under the least expected property belong- 
ing to it, and this, again, rendered specially absurd by being 
applied to the most current subjects and occurrences. The 
phrases and modes of combination in argument were 
caught by the most ignorant from the custom of the age, 
and their ridiculous misapplication of them is most amus- 
ingly exhibited in Costard ; whilst examples suited only to 
the gravest propositions and impersonations, or apostrophes 
to abstract thoughts impersonated, which are in fact the 
natural language only of the most vehement agitations of 
the mind, are adopted by the coxcombry of Armado as 
mere artifices of ornament. 

The same kind of intellectual action is exhibited in a 
more serious and elevated strain in many other parts of 
this play. Biron's speech at the end of the fourth act is an 
excellent specimen of it. It is logic clothed in rhetoric ; 
— but observe how Shakspeare, in his two-fold being of 
poet and philosopher, avails himself of it to convey pro- 
found truths in the most lively images, — the whole re- 
maining faithful to the character supposed to utter the 
lines, and the expressions themselves constituting a 
further developement of that character : — 

other slow arts entirely keep the brain : 
And therefore finding barren practisers, 

Notes on Lovers Labour's Lost 73 

Scarce shew a harvest of their heavy toil : 

But love, first learned in a lady's eyes, 

Lives not alone immured in the brain ; 

But, with the motion of all elements, 

Courses as swift as thought in every power ; 

And gives to every power a double power. 

Above their functions and their offices. 

It adds a precious seeing to the eye, 

A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle blind ; 

A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound. 

When the suspicious tread of theft is stopp'd : 

Love's feeling is more soft and sensible. 

Than are the tender horns of cockled snails ; 

Love's tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste ; 

For valour, is not love a Hercules, 

Still climbing trees in the Hesperides ? 

Subtle as Sphinx ; as sweet and musical, 

As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair ; 

And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods 

Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony. 

Never durst poet touch a pen to write. 

Until his ink were temper' d with love's sighs ; 

O, then his lines would ravish savage ears, 

And plant in tyrants mild humility. 

From women's eyes this doctrine I derive : 

They sparkle still the right Promethean fire ; 

They are the books, the arts, the academes, 

That shew, contain, and nourish all the world ; 

Else, none at all in aught proves excellent ; 

Then fools you were these women to forsweaj* ; 

Or, keeping what is sworn, you will prove fools. 

For wisdom's sake, a word that all men love ; 

Or for love's sake, a word that loves all men ; 

Or for men's sake, the authors of these women ; 

Or women's sake, by whom we men are men ; 

Let us once lose our oaths, to find ourselves, 

Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths : 

It is religion, to be thus forsworn : 

For charity itself fulfils the law : 

And who can sever love from charity ? — 

This is quite a study ; — sometimes you see this youthful 
god of poetry connecting disparate thoughts purely by 
means of resemblances in the words expressing them, — 
a thing in character in lighter comedy, especially of that 
kind in which Shakspeare delights, namely, the purposed 
display of wit, though sometimes, too, disfiguring his 
graver scenes ; — but more often you may see him doubhng 
the natural connection or order of logical consequence in 
the thoughts by the introduction of an artificial and 

74 Notes on Love's Labour's Lost 

sought-for resemblance in the words, as, for instance, in 
the third line of the play, — 

And then grace us in the disgrace of death ; — 

this being a figure often having its force and propriety, as 
justified by the law of passion, which, inducing in the 
mind an unusual activity, seeks for means to waste its 
superfluity, — when in the highest degree — in lyric repeti- 
tions and sublime tautology — (at her feet he bowed, he jell, 
he lay down ; at her feet he bowed, he fell ; where he bowed, 
there he fell down dead), — and, in lower degrees, in making 
the words themselves the subjects and materials of that 
surplus action, and for the same cause that agitates our 
limbs, and forces our very gestures into a tempest in states 
of high excitement. 

The mere style of narration in Love's Labour's Lost, 
like that of ^Egeon in the first scene of the Comedy of 
Errors, and of the Captain in the second scene of Macbeth, 
seems imitated with its defects and its beauties from Sir 
Philip Sidney ; whose Arcadia, though not then published, 
was already well-known in manuscript copies, and could 
hardly have escaped the notice and admiration of Shak- 
speare as the friend and client of the Earl of Southampton. 
The chief defect consists in the parentheses and parenthetic 
thoughts and descriptions, suited neither to the passion of 
the speaker, nor the purpose of the person to whom the 
information is to be given, but manifestly betraying the 
author himself, — not by way of continuous undersong, 
but — palpably, and so as to show themselves addressed to 
the general reader. However, it is not unimportant to 
notice how strong a presumption the diction and allusions 
of this play afford, that, though Shakspeare's acquirements 
in the dead languages might not be such as we suppose in 
a learned education, his habits had, nevertheless, been 
scholastic, and those of a student. For a young author's 
first work almost always bespeaks his recent pursuits, and 
his first observations of life are either drawn from the 
immediate employments of his youth, and from the 
characters and images most deeply impressed on his mind 
in the situations in which those employments had placed 
him ; — or else they are fixed on such objects and occur- 
rences in the world, as are easily connected with, and seem 
to bear upon, his studies and the hitherto exclusive subjects 

Notes on Love's Labour's Lost 75 

of his meditation. Just as Ben Jonson, who applied 
himself to the drama after having served in Flanders, fills 
his earliest plays with true or pretended soldiers, the 
wrongs and neglects of the former, and the absurd boasts 
and knavery of their counterfeits. So Lessing's first 
comedies are placed in the universities, and consist of 
events and characters conceivable in an academic life. 

I will only further remark the sweet and tempered 
gravity, with which Shakspeare in the end draws the only 
fitting moral which such a drama afforded. Here Rosaline 
rises up to the full height of Beatrice : — 

Ros. Oft have I heard of you, my lord Biron. 
Before I saw you, and the world's large tongue 
Proclaims you for a man replete with mocks ; 
Full of comparisons, and wounding flouts, 
Which you on all estates will execute 
That lie within the mercy of your wit : 
To weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain. 
And therewithal, to win me, if you please, 
(Without the which I am not to be won,) 
You shall this twelvemonth term from day to day 
Visit the speechless sick, and still converse 
W^ith groaning wretches ; and your talk shall be, 
With all the fierce endeavour of your wit, 
To enforce the pained impotent to smile, 

Biron. To move wild laughter in the throat of death ? 
It cannot be ; it is impossible ; 
Mirth cannot move a soul in agony. 

Ros. Why, that's the way to choke a gibing spirit, 
Whose influence is begot of that loose grace. 
Which shallow laughing hearers give to fools : 
A jest's prosperity lies in the ear 
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue 
Of him that makes it : then, if sickly ears, 
Deaf'd with the clamours of their own dear groans, 
W^ill hear your idle scorns, continue then, 
And I will have you, and that fault withal ; 
But, if they will not, throw away that spirit, 
And I shall find you empty of that fault. 
Right joyful of your reformation. 

Act v. sc. 2. In Biron's speech to the Princess : 

— and, therefore, like the eye. 
Full of straying shapes, of habits, and of forms — 

Either read stray, which I prefer ; or throw full back to 
the preceding lines, — 

like the eye, full 
Of straying shapes, &c. 

76 Notes on Midsummer Night's Dream 

In the same scene : 

Biron. And what to me, my love ? and what to me ? 

Ros. You must be purged too, your sins are rank ; 
You are attaint with fault and perjury : 
Therefore, if you my favour mean to get, 
A twelvemonth shall you spend, and never rest, 
But seek the weary beds of people sick. 

There can be no doubt, indeed, about the propriety of 
expunging this speech of RosaUne's ; it soils the very page 
that retains it. But I do not agree with Warburton and 
others in striking out the preceding Hne also. It is quite 
in Biron' s character ; and Rosaline not answering it 
immediately, Dumain takes up the question for him, and, 
after he and Longaville are answered, Biron, with evident 
propriety, says ; — 

Studies my mistress ? &c. 

Act i. sc. I. 

Her. O cross ! too high to be enthrall'd to low — 
Lys. Or else misgrafted, in respect of 3'ears ; 
Her. O spite ! too old to be engag'd to young — 
Lys. Or else it stood upon the choice of friends 
Her. O hell ! to chuse love by another's eye ! 

There is no authority for any alteration ; — but I never 
can help feeling how great an improvement it would be, 
if the two former of Hermia's exclamations were omitted ; 
— the third and only appropriate one would then become 
a beauty, and most natural. 
lb. Helena's speech : — 

I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight, &c. 

I am convinced that Shakspeare availed himself of the 
title of this play in his own mind, and worked upon it as a 
dream throughout, but especially, and, perhaps, unpleas- 
ingly, in this broad determination of ungrateful treachery 
in Helena, so undisguisedly avowed to herself, and this, 
too, after the witty cool philosophizing that precedes. 
The act itself is natural, and the resolve so to act is, I fear, 
likewise too true a picture of the lax hold which principles 

Notes on Midsummer Night's Dream 77 

have on a woman's heart, when opposed to, or even 
separated from, passion and indination. For women are 
less hypocrites to their own minds than men are, because 
in general they feel less proportionate abhorrence of moral 
evil in and for itself, and more of its outward consequences, 
as detection, and loss of character than men, — their 
natures being almost wholly extroitive. Still, however 
just in itself, the representation of this is not poetical ; 
we shrink from it, and cannot harmonize it with the ideal. 
Act ii. sc. I. Theobald's edition. 

Through bush, through briar — 

SfC 9|C SfS «|C S|C 

Through flood, through fire — 

What a noble pair of ears this worthy Theobald must 
have had ! The eight amphimacers or cretics, — 

Over hill, over dale, 
Thoro' bush, thoro' briar, 
Over park, over pale. 
Thoro' flood, thoro' fire — 

have a delightful effect on the ear in their sweet transition 
to the trochaic, — 

I do wander ev'ry where 

Swifter than the moones sphere, &c. — 

The last words as sustaining the rhyme, must be considered, 
as in fact they are, trochees in time. 

It may be worth while to give some correct examples in 
English of the principal metrical feet : — 

Pyrrhic or Dibrach, u u = body, spirit. 
Tribrach, u u u = nobody, hastily pronounced. 
Iambus, u — = delight. 
Trochee, — u = lightly. 
Spondee, = God spake. 

The paucity of spondees in single words in English and, 
indeed, in the modern languages in general, makes, perhaps, 
the greatest distinction, metrically considered, between 
them and the Greek and Latin. 

Dactyl, — u o = merrily. 

Anap^st, u u — = a propos, or the first three syllables 
of ceremony.'^ 

1 Written probably by mistake for " ceremonious." 

yS Notes on Comedy of Errors 

Amphibrachys, u — o = del'tghtful. 
Amphimacer, — u — = over hill. 

Antibacchius, u = the Lord God. 

Bacchius u = Helvellyn. 

Molossus, = John James Jones. 

These simple feet may suffice for understanding the 
metres of Shakspeare, for the greater part at least ; — but 
Milton cannot be made harmoniously intelligible without 
the composite feet, the Ionics, Paeons, and Epitrites. 

lb. sc. 2. Titania's speech : — (Theobald adopting 
Warburton's reading.) 

Which she, with pretty and with swimming gate 
Follying (her womb then rich with my young squire) 
Would imitate, &c. 

Oh ! oh ! Heaven have mercy on poor Shakspeare, and 
also on Mr. Warburton's mind's eye ! 

Act V. sc. I. Theseus' speech : — (Theobald.) 

And what poor [willing] duty cannot do, 
Noble respect takes it in might, not merit. 

To my ears it would read far more Shakspearian thus : — 

And what poor duty cannot do, yet would, 
Noble respect, &c. 

lb. sc. 2. 

Puck. Now the hungry lion roars, 

And the wolf behowls the moon ; 
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores 
All with weary task foredone, &c. 

Very Anacreon in perfectness, proportion, grace, and 
spontaneity ! So far it is Greek ; — but then add, O ! 
what wealth, what wild ranging, and yet what compression 
and condensation of, English fancy ! In truth, there is 
nothing in Anacreon more perfect than these thirty lines, 
or half so rich and imaginative. They form a speckless 


The myriad-minded man, our, and all men's, Shakspeare, 
has in this piece presented us with a legitimate farce in 
exactest consonance with the philosophical principles and 
character of farce, as distinguished from comedy and from 

Notes on As You Like It 79 

entertainments. A proper farce is mainly distinguished from 
comedy by the Ucense allowed, and even required, in the 
fable, in order to produce strange and laughable situations. 
The story need not be probable, it is enough that it is 
possible. A comedy would scarcely allow even the two 
Antipholuses ; because, although there have been instances 
of almost indistinguishable likeness in two persons, yet 
these are mere individual accidents, casus ludentis naturcB, 
and the verum will not excuse the inverisimile. But farce 
dares add the two Dromios, and is justified in so doing by 
the laws of its end and constitution. In a word, farces 
commence in a postulate, which must be granted. 

Act i. sc. I. 

OH. What, boy 1 

Orla. Come, come, elder brother, you are too young in this. 

OH. Wilt thou lay hands on me, villain ? 

There is a beauty here. The word 'boy' naturally pro- 
vokes and awakens in Orlando the sense of his manly 
powers ; and with the retort of * elder brother,* he grasps 
him with firm hands, and makes him feel he is no boy. 

lb. OH. Farewell, good Charles. — Now will I stir this gamester : 
I hope, I shall see an end of him ; for my soul, yet I know not why, 
hates nothing more than him. Yet he's gentle ; never school'd, 
and yet learn' d ; full of noble device ; of all sorts enchantingly 
beloved ! and, indeed, so much in the heart of the world, and 
especially of my own people, who best know him, that I am al- 
together misprized : but it shall not be so long ; this wrestler shall 
clear all. 

This has always appeared to me one of the most un- 
Shakspearian speeches in all the genuine works of our poet ; 
yet I should be nothing surprized, and greatly pleased, to 
find it hereafter a fresh beauty, as has so often happened 
to me with other supposed defects of great men. 1810. 

It is too venturous to charge a passage in Shakspeare 
with want of truth to nature ; and yet at first sight this 
speech of Oliver's expresses truths, which it seems almost 
impossible that any mind should so distinctly, so hvehly, 
and so voluntarily, have presented to itself, in connection 
with feehngs and intentions so malignant, and so contrary 

8o Notes on Twelfth Night 

to those which the qualities expressed would naturally 
have called forth. But I dare not say that this seeming 
unnaturalness is not in the nature of an abused wilfulness, 
when united with a strong intellect. In such characters 
there is sometimes a gloomy self-gratification in making 
the absoluteness of the will (sit pro ratione volurJas /) 
evident to themselves by setting the reason and the con- 
science in full array against it. 1818. 
lb. 5c. 2. 

Celia. If you saw yourself with your eyes, or knew yourself 
with your judgment, the fear of your adventure would counsel 
you to a more equal enterprize. 

Surely it should be 'our eyes' and 'our judgment.' 
lb. sc. 3. 

Cel. But is all this for your father ? 

Ros. No, some of it is for my child's father. 

Theobald restores this as the reading of the older 
editions. It may be so : but who can doubt that it is a 
mistake for 'my father's child,' meaning herself ? Accord- 
ing to Theobald's note, a most indelicate anticipation is 
put into the mouth of Rosalind without reason ; — and 
besides what a strange thought, and how out of place, and 
unintelligible ! 

Act. iv. sc. 2. 

Take thou no scorn 

To wear the horn, the lusty horn ; 

It was a crest ere thou wast born. 

I question whether there exists a parallel instance of a 
phrase, that like this of 'horns' is universal in all languages, 
and yet for which no one has discovered even a plausible 


Act i. sc. I. Duke's speech : — 

— so full of shapes is fancy. 
That it alone is high fantastical. 

Warburton's alteration of is into in is needless. 'Fancy* 
may very well be interpreted 'exclusive affection,' or 
'passionate preference.' Thus, bird-fanciers, gentlemen 
of the fancy, that is, amateurs of boxing, &c. The play of 

Notes on Twelfth Night 8i 

assimilation, — the meaning one sense chiefly, and yet keep- 
ing both senses in view, is perfectly Shakspearian. 

Act. ii. sc. 3. Sir Andrew's speech : — 

An explanatory note on Pigrogromitus would have been 
more acceptable than Theobald's grand discovery that 
* lemon' ought to be * leman.' 

lb. Sir Toby's speech : (Warburton's note on the 
Peripatetic philosophy.) 

Shall we rouse the night-owl in a catch, that will draw three 
souls out of one weaver ? 

O genuine, and inimitable (at least I hope so) Warburton! 
This note of thine, if but one in five millions, would be half 
a one too much. 

lb. sc. 4. 

Duke. My life upon't, young though thou art, thine eye 
Hath stay'd upon some favour that it loves ; 
Hath it not, boy ? 

Vio. A little, by your favour. 

Duke. What kind of woman is't ? 

And yet Viola was to have been presented to Orsino as a 
eunuch ! — Act i. sc. 2. Viola's speech. Either she forgot 
this, or else she had altered her plan, 

Vio. A blank, my lord : she never told her love 1 — 
But let concealment, &c. 

After the first line, (of which the last five words should be 
spoken with, and drop down in, a deep sigh) the actress 
ought to make a pause ; and then start afresh, from the 
activity of thought, born of suppressed feelings, and which 
thought had accumulated during the brief interval, as 
vital heat under the skin during a dip in cold water. 
lb. sc. 5. 

Fabian. Though our silence be drawn from us by cars, yet peace. 

Perhaps, 'cables.* 
Act iii. sc. I. 

Clown. A sentence is but a chevetil glove to a good wit. (Theo- 
bald's note.) 

Theobald's etymology of 'cheveril' is, of course, quite 
right ; — but he is mistaken in supposing that there were no 

82 Notes on All's Well that Ends Well 

such things as gloves of chicken-skin. They were at one 
time a main article in chirocosmetics. 
Act V. sc. I. Clown's speech : — 

So that, conclusions to be as kisses, if your four negatives make 
your two af5rmatives, why, then, the worse for my friends, and the 
better for my foes. 

(Warburton reads 'conclusion to be asked, is.') 
Surely Warburton could never have wooed by kisses 
and won, or he would not have flounder-flatted so 
just and humorous, nor less pleasing than humorous, an 
image into so profound a nihility. In the name of love 
and wonder, do not four kisses make a double affirmative ? 
The humour lies in the whispered 'No !' and the inviting 
'Don't !' with which the maiden's kisses are accompanied, 
and thence compared to negatives, which by repetition 
constitute an affirmative. 


Act i. sc. I. 

Count. If the Hving be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it 
soon mortal. 

Bert. Madam, I desire your holy wishes. 
Laf. How understand we that ? 

Bertram and Lafeu, I imagine, both speak together, — 
Lafeu referring to the Countess's rather obscure remark. 
Act ii. sc. I. (Warburton' s note.) 

King, — let higher Italy 

(Those 'hated, that inherit but the fall 
Of the last monarchy) see, that you come 
Not to woo honour, but to wed it. 

It would be, I own, an audacious and unjustifiable 
change of the text ; but yet, as a mere conjecture, I 
venture to suggest 'bastards,' for "bated.' As it stands, 
in spite of Warburton's note, I can make little or nothing 
of it. Why should the king except the then most illus- 
trious states, which, as being republics, were the more 
truly inheritors of the Roman grandeur ? — With my con- 
jecture, the sense would be ; — 'let higher, or the more 
northern part of Italy — (unless 'higher' be a corruption 

Notes on Merry Wives of Windsor 83 

for 'hir'd,' — the metre seeming to demand a monosyl- 
lable) (those bastards that inherit the infamy only of 
their fathers) see, &c.' The following 'woo' and 'wed' 
axe so far confirmative as they indicate Shakspeare's 
manner of connexion by unmarked influences of associa- 
tion from some preceding metaphor. This it is which 
makes his style so peculiarly vital and organic. Likewise 
'those girls of Italy' strengthen the guess. The absurdity 
of Warburton's gloss, which represents the king calling 
Italy superior, and then excepting the only part the lords 
were going to visit, must strike every one. 
lb. sc. 3. 

Laj. They say, miracles are past ; and we have our philosophical 
persons to make modern and familiar, things supernatural and 

Shakspeare, inspired, as it might seem, with all know- 
ledge, here uses the word 'causeless' in its strict philo- 
sophical sense ; — cause being truly predicable only of 
phenomena, that is, things natural, and not of noumena, 
or things supernatural. 

Act iii. sc. 5. 

Dia, The Count Rousillon : — know you such a one ? 
Hel. But by the ear that hears most nobly of him ; 
His face I know not. 

Shall we say here, that Shakspeare has unnecessarily 
made his loveliest character utter a lie ? — Or shall we 
dare think that, where to deceive was necessary, he thought 
a pretended verbal verity a double crime, equally with the 
other a lie to the hearer, and at the same time an attempt 
to lie to one's own conscience ? 


Act i. sc. I. 

Shal. The luce is the fresh fish, the salt fish is an old coat. 

I CANNOT understand this. Perhaps there is a corruption 
both of words and speakers. Shallow no sooner corrects 
one mistake of Sir Hugh's, namely, 'louse' for 'luce,' a 
pike, but the honest Welchman falls into another, namely, 
'cod' [haccald], Camhrice 'cot' for coat. 

84 Notes on Measure for Measure 

Shal. The luce is the fresh fish — 
Evans. The salt fish is an old cot. 

'Luce is a fresh fish, and not a louse ; ' says Shallow. 
'Aye, aye,' quoth Sir Hugh ; ' the fresh fish is the luce ; 
it is an old cod that is the salt fish.' At all events, as the 
text stands, there is no sense at all in the words, 
lb. so. 3. 

Fal. Now, the report goes, she has all the rule of her husband's 
purse ; she hath a legion of angels. 

Pist. As many devils entertain ; and To her, boy. say I. 

Perhaps it is — 

As many devils enter (or enter'd) swine ; and to her, hoy, say I : — 

a somewhat profane, but not un-Shakspearian, allusion to 
the 'legion' in St. Luke's 'gospel.' 


This play, which is Shakspeare's throughout, is to me the 
most painful — say rather, the only painful — part of his 
genuine works. The comic and tragic parts equally border 
on the /jbiGrjTov, — the one being disgusting, the other 
horrible ; and the pardon and marriage of Angelo not 
merely baffles the strong indignant claim of justice — (for 
cruelty, with lust and damnable baseness, cannot be for- 
given, because we cannot conceive them as being morally 
repented of ;) but it is likewise degrading to the character 
of woman. Beaumont and Fletcher, who can follow Shak- 
speare in his errors only, have presented a still worse, 
because more loathsome and contradictory, instance of 
the same kind in the Night-Walker, in the marriage of 
Alathe to Algripe. Of the counter-balancing beauties of 
Measure for Measure, I need say nothing ; for T have 
already remarked that the play is Shakspeare's throughout. 
Act iii. sc. I. 

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where, &c. 
This natural fear of Claudio, from the antipathy we have to 
death, seems very little varied from that infamous wish of Msecenas, 
recorded in the loist epistle of Seneca : 
Debtlem facito manu, 
Debilem pede, coxa, &-c. Warburton's note. 

I cannot but think this rather an heroic resolve, than 

Notes on Cymbeline 85 

an infamous wish. It appears to me to be the grandest 
symptom of an immortal spirit, when even that bedimmed 
and overwhehned spirit recked not of its own immortahty, 
still to seek to be, — to be a mind, a will. 

As fame is to reputation, so heaven is to an estate, or 
immediate advantage. The difference is, that the self- 
love of the former cannot exist but by a complete suppres- 
sion and habitual supplantation of immediate selfishness. 
In one point of view, the miser is more estimable than 
the spendthrift ; — only that the miser's present feelings 
are as much of the present as the spendthrift's. But 
ccBteris paribus, that is, upon the supposition that whatever 
is good or lovely in the one coexists equally in the other, 
then, doubtless, the master of the present is less a selfish 
being, an animal, than he who lives for the moment with 
no inheritance in the future. Whatever can degrade 
man, is supposed in the latter case, whatever can elevate 
him, in the former. And as to self ; — strange and generous 
self ! that can only be such a self by a complete divestment 
of all that men call self, — of aU that can make it either 
practically to others, or consciously to the individual him- 
self, different from the human race in its ideal. Such self 
is but a perpetual religion, an inalienable acknowledgment 
of God, the sole basis and ground of being. In this sense, 
how can I love God, and not love myself, as far as it is of 
lb. sc. 2. 

Pattern in himself to know, 

Grace to stand, and virtue go. 

Worse metre, indeed, but better English would be, — 
Grace to stand, virtue to go. 


Act i. sc. I. 

You do not meet a man, but frowns : our bloods 
No more obey the heavens, than our courtiers' 
Still seem, as does the king's. 

There can be little doubt of Mr. T5n:whitt's emendations 
of 'courtiers' and 'king,' as to the sense ; — only it is not 
impossible that Shakspeare's dramatic language may aUow 
of the word, 'brows' or 'faces' being understood after the 

86 Notes on Cymbeline 

word 'courtiers,' which might then remain in the genitive 
case plural. But the nominative plural makes excellent 
sense, and is sufficiently elegant, and sounds to my ear 
Shakspearian. What, however, is meant by 'our bloods 
no more obey the heavens ? ' — Dr. Johnson's assertion 
that 'bloods' signify 'countenances,' is, I think, mistaken 
both in the thought conveyed — (for it was never a popular 
beUef that the stars governed men's countenances,) and 
in the usage, which requires an antithesis of the blood, — or 
the temperament of the four humours, choler, melancholy, 
phlegm, and the red globules, or the sanguine portion, 
which was supposed not to be in our own power, but, 
to be dependent on the influences of the heavenly bodies, — 
and the countenances which are in our power really, though 
from flattery we bring them into a no less apparent de- 
pendence on the sovereign, than the former are in actual 
dependence on the constellations. 

I have sometimes thought that the word 'courtiers' was 
a misprint for 'countenances,' arising from an anticipa- 
tion, by foreglance of the compositor's eye, of the word 
'courtier' a few lines below. The written r is easily and 
often confounded with the written n. The compositor 
read the first syllable court, and — his eye at the same time 
catching the word 'courtier ' lower down — he completed 
the word without reconsulting the copy. It is not unlikely 
that Shakspeare intended first to express, generally the 
same thought, which a little afterwards he repeats with a 
particular application to the persons meant ; — a common 
usage of the pronominal 'our,' where the speaker does not 
really mean to include himself ; and the word 'you' is an 
additional confirmation of the 'our,' being used in this 
place, for 'men' generally and indefinitely, just as 'you do 
not meet,' is the same as, 'one does not meet.' 

Act i. sc. 2. Imogen's speech : — 

— My dearest husband, 
I something fear my father's wrath ; but nothing 
(Always reserv'd my holy duty) what 
His rage can do on me. 

Place the emphasis on 'me ; ' for 'rage' is a mere repetition 
of ' wrath. ' 

Cym. O disloyal thing, 

That should' st repair my youth, thou heapest 
A year's age on me 1 

Notes on Cymbeline 87 

How is it that the commentators take no notice of the 
un-Shakspearian defect in the metre of the second Une, and 
what in Shakspeare is the same, in the harmony with the 
sense and feehng ? Some word or words must have sHpped 
out after 'youth,' — possibly 'and see :' — 

That should'st repair my youth ! — and see, thou heap'st, &c. 

lb. sc. 4. Pisanio's speech : — 

— For so long 
As he could make me with this eye or ear 
Distinguish him from others, &c. 

But Hhis eye,' in spite of the supposition of its being 
used hixrixug is very awkward. I should think that 
either 'or' — or 'the' was Shakspeare' s word ; — 

As he could make me or with eye or ear. 

lb. sc. 7. lachimo's speech : — 

Hath nature given them eyes 
To see this vaulted arch, and the rich crop 
Of sea and land, which can distinguish 'twixt 
The fiery orbs above, and the twinn'd stones 
Upon the number' d beach. 

I would suggest 'cope' for 'crop.* As to 'twinn'd 
stones' — may it not be a bold catachresis for muscles, 
cockles, and other empty shells with hinges, which are 
truly twinned ? I would take Dr. Farmer's 'umber'd,' 
which I had proposed before I ever heard of its having been 
already offered by him : but I do not adopt his interpreta- 
tion of the word, which I think is not derived from umbra, a 
shade, but from tcmber, a dingy yellow-brown soil, which 
most commonly forms the mass of the sludge on the sea 
shore, and on the banks of tide-rivers at low water. One 
other possible interpretation of this sentence has occurred 
to me, just barely worth mentioning ; — that the 'twinn'd 
stones' are the augrim stones upon the number'd beech, 
that is, the astronomical tables of beech-wood. 

Act V. sc. 5. 

Sooth. When as a lion's whelp, &c. 

It is not easy to conjecture why Shakspeare should have 
introduced this ludicrous scroll, which answers no one 
purpose, either propulsive, or explicatory, unless as a joke 
on etymology. 

88 Notes on Titus Andronicus 

Act i. sc. I. Theobald's note. 

I never heard it so much as intimated, that he (Shakspeare) had 
turned his genius to stage-writing, before he associated with the 
players, and became one of their body. 

That Shakspeare never 'turned his genius to stage-writ- 
ing,' as Theobald most Theohaldice phrases it, before he 
became an actor, is an assertion of about as much authority, 
as the precious story that he left Stratford for deer-steal- 
ing, and that he lived by holding gentlemen's horses at the 
doors of the theatre, and other trash of that arch-gossip, 
old Aubrey. The metre is an argument against Titus 
Andronicus being Shakspeare's, worth a score such chrono- 
logical surmises. Yet I incline to think that both in this 
play and in Jeronymo, Shakspeare wrote some passages, 
and that they are the earliest of his compositions. 

Act V. sc. 2. 

I think it not improbable that the lines from — 

I am not mad ; I know thee well enough ; 
* 4: * « * « « 

So thou destroy Rapine, and Murder there, 

were written by Shakspeare in his earliest period. But 
instead of the text — 

Revenge, which makes the foul o-ffender quake. 
Tit. Art thou Revenge ? and art thou sent to me ? — 

the words in italics ought to be omitted. 


Mr. Pope (after Dryden) informs us, that the story of Troilus and 
Cressida was originally the work of one Lollius, a Lombard : but 
Dryden goes yet further ; he declares it to have been written in 
Latin verse, and that Chaucer translated it. — Lollius was a historio- 
grapher of U rhino in Italy. Note in Stockdale's edition, 1807. 

* Lollius was a historiographer of Urbino in Italy.' So 
affirms the notary, to whom the Sieur Stockdale committed 
the disfacimento of Ayscough's excellent edition of Shak- 
speare. Pitv that the researchful notary has not either 

Notes on Troilus and Cressida 89 

told us in what century, and of what history, he was a 
writer, or been simply content to depose, that LoUius, if a 
writer of that name existed at all, was a somewhat some- 
where. The notary speaks of the Troy Boke of Lydgate, 
printed in 15 13. I have never seen it ; but I deeply regret 
that Chalmers did not substitute the whole of Lydgate's 
works from the MSS. extant, for the almost worthless 

The Troilus and Cressida of Shakspeare can scarcely be 
classed with his dramas of Greek and Roman history ; but 
it forms an intermediate link between the fictitious Greek 
and Roman histories, which we may call legendary dramas, 
and the proper ancient histories ; that is, between the 
Pericles or Titus Andronicus, and the Coriolanus, or Julius 
Caesar. Cymbeline is a congener with Pericles, and dis- 
tinguished from Lear by not having any declared pro- 
minent object. But where shall we class the Timon of 
Athens ? Perhaps immediately below Lear. It is a Lear 
of the satirical drama ; a Lear of domestic or ordinary 
life ; — a local eddy of passion on the high road of society, 
while all around is the week-day goings on of wind and 
weather ; a Lear, therefore, without its soul-searching 
flashes, its ear-cleaving thunder-claps, its meteoric 
splendours, — without the contagion and the fearful sym- 
pathies of nature, the fates, the furies, the frenzied elements, 
dancing in and out, now breaking through, and scattering, 
— now hand in hand with, — the fierce or fantastic group 
of human passions, crimes, and anguishes, reeling on the 
unsteady ground, in a wild harmony to the shock and the 
swell of an earthquake. But my present subject was 
Troilus and Cressida ; and I suppose that, scarcely know- 
ing what to say of it, I by a cunning of instinct ran off to 
subjects on which I should find it difficult not to say too 
much, though certain after all that I should still leave the 
better part unsaid, and the gleaning for others richer than 
my own harvest. 

Indeed, there is no one of Shakspeare's plays harder to 
characterize. The name and the remembrances connected 
with it, prepare us for the representation of attachment no 
less faithful than fervent on the side of the youth, and of 
sudden and shameless inconstancy on the part of the lady. 
And this is, indeed, as the gold thread on which the scenes 
are strung, though often kept out of sight and out of mind 

90 Notes on Troilus and Cressida 

by gems of greater value than itself. But as Shakspeare 
calls forth nothing from the mausoleum of history, or the 
catacombs of tradition, without giving, or eliciting, some 
permanent and general interest, and brings forward no 
subject which he does not moralize or intellectualize, — so 
here he has drawn in Cressida the portrait of a vehement 
passion, that, having its true origin and proper cause in 
warmth of temperament, fastens on, rather than fixes to, 
some one object by liking and temporary preference. 

There's language in her eye, her cheek, her Hp, 
Nay, her foot speaks ; her wanton spirits look out 
At every joint and motive of her body. 

This Shakspeare has contrasted with the profound affec- 
tion represented in Troilus, and alone worthy the name 
of love ; — affection, passionate indeed, — swoln with the 
confluence of youthful instincts and youthful fancy, and 
growing in the radiance of hope newly risen, in short 
enlarged by the collective sympathies of nature ; — but 
still having a depth of calmer element in a will stronger 
than desire, more entire than choice, and which gives per- 
manence to its own act by converting it into faith and 
duty. Hence with excellent judgment, and with an ex- 
cellence higher than mere judgment can give, at the close 
of the play, when Cressida has sunk into infamy below 
retrieval and beneath hope, the same will, which had been 
the substance and the basis of his love, while the restless 
pleasures and passionate longings, like sea- waves, had 
tossed but on its surface, — this same moral energy is repre- 
sented as snatching him aloof from all neighbourhood 
with her dishonour, from all lingering fondness and languish- 
ing regrets, whilst it rushes with him into other and nobler 
duties, and deepens the channel, which his heroic brother's 
death had left empty for its collected flood. Yet another 
secondary and subordinate purpose Shakspeare has in- 
woven with his delineation of these two characters, — 
that of opposing the inferior civilization, but purer morals, 
of the Trojans to the refinements, deep policy, but duplicity 
and sensual corruptions of the Greeks. 

To all this, however, so little comparative projection is 
given, — nay, the masterly group of Agamemnon, Nestor, 
and Ulysses, and, still more in advance, that of Achilles, 
Ajax, and Thersites, so manifestly occupy the fore-ground. 

Notes on Troilus and Cressida 91 

that the subservience and vassalage of strength and animal 
courage to intellect and policy seems to be the lesson most 
often in our poet's view, and which he has taken little 
pains to connect with the former more interesting moral 
impersonated in the titular hero and heroine of the drama. 
But I am half inclined to believe, that Shakspeare's main 
object, or shall I rather say, his ruling impulse, was to 
translate the poetic heroes of paganism into the not less 
rude, but more intellectually vigorous, and more featurely, 
warriors of Christian chivalry, — and to substantiate the 
distinct and graceful profiles or outlines of the Homeric 
epic into the flesh and blood of the romantic drama, — in 
short, to give a grand history-piece in the robust style of 
Albert Durer. 

The character of Thersites, in particular, well deserves 
a more careful examination, as the Caliban of demagogic 
life ; — the admirable portrait of intellectual power deserted 
by all grace, all moral principle, all not momentary im- 
pulse ; — just wise enough to detect the weak head, and 
fool enough to provoke the armed fist of his betters ; — one 
whom malcontent Achilles can inveigle from malcontent 
Ajax, under the one condition, that he shall be called on 
to do nothing but abuse and slander, and that he shall be 
allowed to abuse as much and as purulently as he likes, 
that is, as he can ; — in short, a mule, — quarrelsome by 
the original discord of his nature, — a slave by tenure of 
his own baseness, — made to bray and be brayed at, to 
despise and be despicable. 'Aye, Sir, but say what you 
will, he is a very clever fellow, though the best friends 
will fall out. There was a time when Ajax thought he 
deserved to have a statue of gold erected to him, and hand- 
some Achilles, at the head of the Myrmidons, gave no 
Uttle credit to his friend Thersites !' 

Act iv. sc. 5. Speech of Ulysses : 

O, these encounterers, so glib of tongue, 
That give a coasting welcome ere it comes — 

Should it be 'accosting ?' 'Accost her, knight, accost !* 
in the Twelfth Night. Yet there sounds a something so 
Shakspearian in the phrase — 'give a coasting welcome,' 
('coasting' being taken as the epithet and adjective of 
'welcome,') that had the following words been, 'ere they 
land,' instead of 'ere it comes,' I should have preferred 

92 Notes on Coriolanus 

the interpretation. The sense now is, 'that give welcome 
to a salute ere it comes.' 


This play illustrates the wonderfully philosophic im- 
partiality of Shakspeare's politics. His own country's 
history furnished him with no matter, but what was too 
recent to be devoted to patriotism. Besides, he knew 
that the instruction of ancient history would seem more 
dispassionate. In Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, you see 
Shakspeare's good-natured laugh at mobs. Compare 
this with Sir Thomas Brown's aristocracy of spirit. 
Act i. sc. I. Coriolanus' speech : — 

He that depends 
Upon your favours, swims with fins of lead, 
And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye ! Trust ye ? 

I suspect that Shakspeare wrote it transposed ; 
Trust ye ? Hang ye ! 

lb. sc. 10. Speech of Aufidius : — 

Mine emulation 
Hath not that honour in't, it had ; for where 
I thought to crush him in an equal force. 
True sword to sword ; I'll potch at him some way. 
Or wrath, or craft may get him. — 

My valour's poison'd 
With only suffering stain by him for him 
Shall fly out of itself: nor sleep, nor sanctuary, 
Being naked, sick, nor fane, nor capitol, 
The prayers of priests, nor times of sacrifices, 
Embarquements all of fury, shall lift up 
Their rotten privilege and custom 'gainst 
My hate to Marcius. 

I have such deep faith in Shakspeare's heart-lore, that 
I take for granted that this is in nature, and not as a mere 
anomaly ; although I cannot in myself discover any germ 
of possible feeling, which could wax and unfold itself into 
such sentiment as this. However, I perceive that in this 
speech is meant to be contained a prevention of shock 
at the after-change in Aufidius' character. 

Notes on Julius Caesar 93 

Act. ii. sc. I. Speech of Menenius : — 

The most sovereign prescription in Galen, &c. 

Was it without, or in contempt of, historical information 
that Shakspeare made the contemporaries of Coriolanus 
quote Cato and Galen ? I cannot decide to my own 

lb. sc. 3. speech of Coriolanus : — 

Why in this wolvish gown should I stand here — 

That the gown of the candidate was of whitened wool, 
we know. Does 'wolvish' or 'woolvish' mean 'made of 
wool' ? If it means 'wolfish,' what is the sense ? 

Act. iv. sc. 7. Speech of Aufidius : 

All places yield to him ere he sits down, &c. 

I have always thought this, in itself so beautiful speech, 
the least explicable from the mood and full intention of 
the speaker of any in the whole works of Shakspeare. I 
cherish the hope that I am mistaken, and that, becoming 
wiser, I shall discover some profound excellence in that, in 
which I now appear to detect an imperfection. 


Act i. sc. I. 

Mar. What meanest thou by that ? Mend me, thou saucy 
fellow ! 

The speeches of Flavins and Marullus are in blank verse. 
Wherever regular metre can be rendered truly imitative of 
character, passion, or personal rank, Shakspeare seldom, 
if ever, neglects it. Hence this hne should be read : — 

What mean'st by that ? mend me, thou saucy fellow ! 

I say regular metre : for even the prose has in the highest 
and lowest dramatic personage, a Cobbler or a Hamlet, a 
rhythm so felicitous and so severally appropriate, as to be 
a virtual metre. 
lb. sc. 2. 
Bru. A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March. 
If my ear does not deceive me, the metre of this line was 

94 Notes on Julius Cassar 

meant to express that sort of mild philosophic contempt, 
characterizing Brutus even in his first casual speech. The 
line is a trimeter, — each dipohia containing two accented 
and two unaccented syllables, but variously arranged, as 
thus ; — 

u — — u I — o u — I o — o — 

A soothsayer | bids you beware I the Ides of March, 
lb. Speech of Brutus : 

Set honour in one eye, and death i' the other, 
And I will look on both indifferently. 

Warburton would read 'death' for 'both' ; but I prefer 
the old text. There are here three things, the public 
good, the individual Brutus' honour, and his death. The 
latter two so balanced each other, that he could decide for 
the first by equipoise ; nay — the thought growing — that 
honour had more weight than death. That Cassius under- 
stood it as Warburton, is the beauty of Cassius as con- 
trasted with Brutus. 
lb. Caesar's speech : — 

He loves no plays. 
As thou dost, Antony ; he hears no music, &c 

This is not a trivial observation, nor does our poet mean barely 
by it, that Cassius was not a merry, sprightly man ; but that he 
had not a due temperament of harmony in his disposition. Theo- 
bald's Note. 

Theobald ! what a commentator wast thou, when thou 
would' st affect to understand Shakspeare, instead of con- 
tenting thyself with collating the text ! The meaning here 
is too deep for a line ten-fold the length of thine to fathom. 

lb. sc. 3. Casca's speech : — 

Be factious for redress of all these griefs ; 
And I will set this foot of mine as far, 
As who goes farthest. 

1 understand it thus : 'You have spoken as a con- 
spirator ; be so in fact, and I will join you. Act on your 
principles, and realize them in a fact.' 

Act ii. sc. I. Speech of Brutus : — 

It must be by his death ; and, for my part, 

I know no personal cause to spurn at him. 

But for the general. He would be crown'd : 

How that might change his nature, there's the question. 

Notes on Julius Caesar 95 

And, to speak truth of Caesax, 

I have not known when his afiections sway'd 
More than his reason. 

So Caesar may ; 

Then, lest he may, prevent. 

This speech is singular ; — at least, I do not at present see 
into Shakspeare's motive, his rationale, or in what point of 
view he meant Brutus' character to appear. For surely — 
(this, I mean, is what I say to myself, with my present 
quantum of insight, only modified by my experience in how 
many instances I have ripened into a perception of beauties, 
where I had before descried faults ;) surely, nothing can 
seem more discordant with our historical preconceptions of 
Brutus, or more lowering to the intellect of the Stoico- 
Platonic tyrannicide, than the tenets here attributed to 
him — to him, the stern Roman repubUcan ; namely, — that 
he would have no objection to a king, or to Caesar, a 
monarch in Rome, would Caesar but be as good a monarch 
as he now seems disposed to be ! How, too, could Brutus 
say that he found no personal cause — none in Caesar's past 
conduct cLs a man ? Had he not passed the Rubicon ? 
Had he not entered Rome as a conqueror ? Had he not 
placed his Gauls in the Senate ? — Shakspeare, it may be 
said, has not brought these things forwards — True ; — and 
this is just the ground of my perplexity. What character 
did Shakspeare mean his Brutus to be ? 

lb. Speech of Brutus : — 

For if thou path, thy native semblance on — 

Surely, there need be no scruple in treating this 'path' 
as a mere misprint or mis-script for 'put.' In what place 
does Shakspeare, — where does any other writer of the same 
age — use 'path' as a verb for 'walk ?' 

lb. sc. 2. Caesar's speech : — 

She dreamt last night, she saw my statue — 

No doubt, it should be statua, as in the same age, they more 
often pronounced 'heroes' as a trisyllable than dissyllable. 
A modern tragic poet would have written, — 

Last night she dreamt, that she my statue saw — 

But Shakspeare never avails himself of the supposed 
license of transposition, merely for the metre. There is 
always some logic either of thought or passion to justify it. 

96 Notes on Julius Caesar 

Act iii. sc. I. Antony's speech : — 

Pardon me, Julius — here wast thou bay'd, brave hart ; 
Here didst thou fall ; and here thy hunters stand 
Sign'd in thy spoil, and crimson' d in thy death. 
O world I thou wast the forest to this hart, 
And this, indeed, O world ! the heart of thee. 

I doubt the genuineness of the last two lines ; — not because 
they are vile ; but first, on account of the rhythm, which is 
not Shakspearian, but just the very tune of some old play, 
from which the actor might have interpolated them ; — 
and secondly, because they interrupt, not only the sense 
and connection, but likewise the flow both of the passion, 
and, (what is with me still more decisive) of the Shak- 
spearian link of association. As with many another 
parenthesis or gloss slipt into the text, we have only to read 
the passage without it, to see that it never was in it. I 
venture to say there is no instance in Shakspeare fairly 
like this. Conceits he has ; but they not only rise out of 
some word in the lines before, but also lead to the thought 
in the lines following. Here the conceit is a mere alien : 
Antony forgets an image, when he is even touching it, and 
then recollects it, when the thought last in his mind must 
have led him away from it. 

Act iv. sc. 3. Speech of Brutus : — 

What, shall one of us, 

That struck the foremost man of all this world. 
But for supporting robbers. 

This seemingly strange assertion of Brutus is unhappily 
verified in the present day. What is an immense army, in 
which the lust of plunder has quenched all the duties of the 
citizen, other than a horde of robbers, or differenced only 
as fiends are from ordinarily reprobate men ? Caesar sup- 
ported, and was supported by, such as these ; — and even so 
Buonaparte in our days. 

I know no part of Shakspeare that more impresses on 
me the belief of his genius being superhuman, than this 
scene between Brutus and Cassius. In the Gnostic heresy 
it might have been credited with less absurdity than 
most of their dogrnas, that the Supreme had employed 
him to create, previously to his function of representing, 

Notes on Antony and Cleopatra 97 


Shakspeare can be complimented only by comparison 
with himself : all other eulogies are either heterogeneous, 
as when they are in reference to Spenser or Milton ; or they 
are fiat truisms, as when he is gravely preferred to Comeille, 
Racine, or even his own immediate successors, Beaumont 
and Fletcher, Massinger and the rest. The highest praise, 
or rather form of praise, of this play, which I can offer in 
my own mind, is the doubt which the perusal always 
occasions in me, whether the Antony and Cleopatra is not, 
in all exhibitions of a giant power in its strength and vigour 
of maturity, a formidable rival of Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet, 
and Othello. Feliciter audax is the motto for its style com- 
paratively with that of Shakspeare' s other works, even as 
it is the general motto of all his works compared with those 
of other poets. Be it remembered, too, that this happy 
valiancy of style is but the representative and result of all 
the material excellencies so expressed. 

This play should be perused in mental contrast with 
Romeo and Juliet ; — as the love of passion and appetite 
opposed to the love of affection and instinct. But the art 
displayed in the character of Cleopatra is profound ; in 
this, especially, that the sense of criminality in her passion 
is lessened by our insight into its depth and energy, at the 
very moment that we cannot but perceive that the passion 
itself springs out of the habitual craving of a licentious 
nature, and that it is supported and reinforced by voluntary 
stimulus and sought-for associations, instead of blossoming 
out of spontaneous emotion. 

Of all Shakspeare' s historical plays, Antony and Cleo- 
patra is by far the most wonderful. There is not one in 
which he has followed history so minutely, and yet there 
are few in which he impresses the notion of angelic strength 
so much ; — perhaps none in which he impresses it more 
strongly. This is greatly owing to the manner in which the 
fiery force is sustained throughout, and to the numerous 
momentary flashes of nature counteracting the historic 
abstraction. As a wonderful specimen of the way in which 
Shakspeare lives up to the very end of this play, read the 
last part of the concluding scene. And if you would feel 
the judgment as well as the genius of Shakspeare in your 

98 Notes on Antony and Cleopatra 

heart's core, compare this astonishing drama with Dryden's 
All For Love. 

Act i. sc. I. Philo's speech : 

His captain's heart 
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst 
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper — 

It should be 'reneagues/ or 'reniegues/ as 'fatigues/ &c. 

Take but good note, and you shall see in him 
The triple pillar of the world transform' d 
Into a strumpet's fool. 

Warburton's conjecture of 'stool' is ingenious, and would 
be a probable reading, if the scene opening had discovered 
Antony with Cleopatra on his lap. But, represented as 
he is walking and jesting with her, 'fool' must be the word. 
Warburton's objection is shallow, and implies that he 
confounded the dramatic with the epic style. The 'pillar' 
of a state is so common a metaphor as to have lost the 
image in the thing meant to be imaged, 
lb. sc. 2. 

Much is breeding ; 

Which, like the courser's hair, hath yet but life, 

And not a serpent's poison. 

This is so far true to appearance, that a horse-hair, 
*laid,' as Hollinshed says, 'in a pail of water,' will become 
the supporter of seemingly one worm, though probably 
of an immense number of small sUmy water-lice. The 
hair will twirl round a finger, and sensibly compress it. 
It is a common experiment with school boys in Cumberland 
and Westmorland. 

Act. ii. sc. 2. Speech of Enobarbus : — 

Her gentlewomen, like the Nereids, 
So many mermaids, tended her i' th' eyes, 
And made their bends adornings. At the helm 
A seeming mermaid steers. 

I have the greatest difficulty in beheving that Shakspeare 
wrote the first 'mermaids.' He never, I think, would have 
so weakened by useless anticipation the fine image im- 
mediately following. The epithet 'seeming' becomes so 
extremely improper after the whole number had been posi- 
tively called 'so many mermaids.' 

Notes on Timon of Athens 99 


Act i. sc. I. 

Tim. The man is honest. 
Old Ath. Therefore he will be, Timon. 

His honesty rewards him in itself 

Warburton's comment — *If the man be honest, for that 
reason he will be so in this, and not endeavour at the 
injustice of gaining my daughter without my consent' — is, 
like almost all his comments, ingenious in blunder ; he 
can never see any other writer's thoughts for the mist- 
working swarm of his own. The meaning of the first line 
the poet himself explains, or rather unfolds, in the second. 
'The man is honest !' — 'True ; — and for that very cause, 
and with no additional or extrinsic motive, he will be so. 
No man can be justly called honest, who is not so for 
honesty's sake, itself including its own reward.' Note, 
that 'honesty' in Shakspeare's age retained much of its 
old dignity, and that contradistinction of the honestum 
from the utile, in which its very essence and definition 
consists. If it be honestum, it cannot depend on the utile. 
lb. Speech of Apemantus, printed as prose in Theo- 
bald's edition : — 

So, so ! aches contract, and starve your supple joints ! 

I may remark here the fineness of Shakspeare's sense 
of musical period, which would almost by itself have 
suggested (if the hundred positive proofs had not been 
extant,) that the word 'aches' was then ad libitum, a 
dissyllable — aitches. For read it, 'aches,' in this sentence, 
and I would challenge you to find any period in Shakspeare's 
writings with the same musical or, rather dissonant, nota- 
tion. Try the one, and then the other, by your ear, reading 
the sentence aloud, first with the word as a dissyllable and 
then as a monosyllable, and you will feel what I mean.^ 

1 It is, of course, a verse, — 

Achfes contract, and starve your supple joints, — 

and is so printed in all later editions. But Mr. C. was reading it in prose in Theobald; 
and it is curious to see how his ear detected the rhythmical necessity for pronouncing 
' aches ' as a dissyllable, although the metrical necessity seems for the moment to have 
escaped him. Ed. 

lOO Notes on Timon of Athens 

lb. sc. 2. Cupid's speech : Warburton's correction 

There taste, touch, all pleas' d from thy table rise — 

Th' ear, taste, touch, smell, &c. 

This is indeed an excellent emendation. 
Act. ii. sc. I. Senator's speech : — 

— nor then silenc'd when 
• Commend me to your master' — and the cap 
Plays in the right hand, thus : — 

Either, methinks, 'plays' should be 'play'd/ or 'and' 
should be changed to 'while.' I can certainly understand 
it as a parenthesis, an interadditive of scorn ; but it does 
not sound to my ear as in Shakspeare's manner, 
lb. sc. 2. Timon's speech : (Theobald.) 

And that unaptness made you minister, 
Thus to excuse yourself. 

Read your ; — at least I cannot otherwise understand the 
line. You made my chance indisposition and occasional 
unaptness your minister — that is, the ground on which 
you now excuse yourself. Or, perhaps, no correction 
is necessary, if we construe 'made you' as 'did you make ;' 
'and that unaptness did you make help you thus to excuse 
yourself.' But the former seems more in Shakspeare's 
manner, and is less Hable to be misunderstood.^ 
Act iii. sc. 3. Servant's speech : — 

How fairly this lord strives to appear foul ! — takes virtuous 
copies to be wicked ; like those that under hot, ardent, zeal would 
set whole realms on fire. Of such a nature is his politic love. 

This latter clause I grievously suspect to have been an 
addition of the players, which had hit, and, being con- 
stantly applauded, procured a settled occupancy in the 
prompter's copy. Not that Shakspeare does not elsewhere 
sneer at the Puritans ; but here it is introduced so nolenter 
volenfer (excuse the phrase) by the head and shoulders ! — 
and is besides so much more likely to have been conceived 
in the age of Charles I. 

Act iv. sc. 2. Timon's speech : — 

Raise me this beggar, and deny't that lord. — 
Warburton reads 'denude.' 

1 ' Vour ' is the received reading; now. Ed. 

Notes on Romeo and Juliet loi 

I cannot see the necessity of this alteration. The 
editors and commentators are, all of them, ready enough 
to cry out against Shakspeare's laxities and licenses of 
style, forgetting that he is not merely a poet, but a dramatic 
poet ; that, when the head and the heart are swelling 
with fulness, a man does not ask himself whether he has 
grammatically arranged, but only whether (the context 
taken in) he has conveyed, his meaning. 'Deny' is here 
clearly equal to 'withhold ;' and the *it/ quite in the 
genius of vehement conversation, which a syntaxist ex- 
plains by ellipses and suhauditurs in a Greek or Latin 
classic, yet triumphs over as ignorances in a contemporary, 
refers to accidental and artificial rank or elevation, implied 
in the verb 'raise.' Besides, does the word 'denude' occur 
in any writer before, or of, Shakspeare's age ? 


I HAVE previously had occasion to speak at large on the 
subject of the three unities of time, place, and action, as 
applied to the drama in the abstract, and to the particular 
stage for which Shakspeare wrote, as far as he can be said 
to have written for any stage but that of the universal 
mind. I hope I have in some measure succeeded in 
demonstrating that the former two, instead of being rules, 
were mere inconveniences attached to the local peculiarities 
of the Athenian drama ; that the last alone deserved the 
name of a principle, and that in the preservation of this 
unity Shakspeare stood pre-eminent. Yet, instead of 
unity of action, I should greatly prefer the more appro- 
priate, though scholastic and uncouth, words homogeneity, 
proportionateness, and totahty of interest, — expressions, 
which involve the distinction, or rather the essential 
difference, betwixt the shaping skill of mechanical talent, 
and the creative, productive, life-power of inspired genius. 
In the former each part is separately conceived, and then 
by a succeeding act put together ; — not as watches are 
made for wholesale — (for there each part supposes a pre- 
conception of the whole in some mind) — but more like 
pictures on a motley screen. Whence arises the harmony 
that strikes us in the wildest natural landscapes, — 
in the relative shapes of rocks, the harmony of colours 

I02 Notes on Romeo and Juliet 

in the heaths, ferns, and Uchens, the leaves of the 
beech and the oak, the stems and rich brown branches of 
the birch and other mountain trees, varying from verging 
autumn to returning spring, — compared with the visual 
effect from the greater number of artificial plantations ? 
— From this, that the natural landscape is effected, as it 
were, by a single energy modified ah intra in each com- 
ponent part. And as this is the particular excellence of 
the Shakspearian drama generally, so is it especially 
characteristic of the Romeo and Juliet. 

The groundwork of the tale is altogether in family life, 
and the events of the play have their first origin in family 
feuds. Filmy as are the eyes of party-spirit, at once dim 
and truculent, still there is commonly some real or supposed 
object in view, or principle to be maintained ; and though 
but the twisted wires on the plate of rosin in the prepara- 
tion for electrical pictures, it is still a guide in some degree, 
an assimilation to an outline. But in family quarrels, 
which have proved scarcely less injurious to states, wilful- 
ness, and precipitancy, and passion from mere habit and 
custom, can alone be expected. With his accustomed 
judgment, Shakspeare has begun by placing before us a 
lively picture of all the impulses of the play ; and, as 
nature ever presents two sides, one for Heraclitus, and one 
for Democritus, he has, by way of prelude, shown the 
laughable absurdity of the evil by the contagion of it 
reaching the servants, who have so little to do with it, but 
who are under the necessity of letting the superfluity of 
sensoreal power fly off through the escape-valve of wit- 
combats, and of quarrelling with weapons of sharper edge, 
all in humble imitation of their masters. Yet there is a 
sort of unhired fidelity, an ourishness about all this that 
makes it rest pleasant on one's feelings. All the first scene, 
down to the conclusion of the Priace's speech, is a motley 
dance of all ranks and ages to one tune, as if the horn of 
Huon had been pla5dng behind the scenes. 

Benvolio's speech — 

Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun 
Peer'd forth the golden window of the east — 

and, far more strikingly, the following speech of old 

Montague — 

Many a morning hath he there been seen 

With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew- 

Notes on Romeo and Juliet 103 

prove that Shakspeare meant the Romeo and Juliet to 
approach to a poem, which, and indeed its early date, ma^r 
be also inferred from the multitude of rhyming couplets 
throughout. And if we are right, from the internal 
evidence, in pronouncing this one of Shakspeare's early 
dramas, it affords a strong instance of the fineness of his 
insight into the nature of the passions, that Romeo is 
introduced already love-bewildered. The necessity of 
loving creates an object for itself in man and woman ; and 
yet there is a difference in this respect between the sexes, 
though only to be known by a perception of it. It would 
have displeased us if Juliet had been represented as already 
in love, or as fancying herself so ; — but no one, I believe, 
ever experiences any shock at Romeo's forgetting his 
Rosaline, who had been a mere name for the yearning of 
his youthful imagination, and rushing into his passion for 
JuHet. Rosaline was a mere creation of his fancy ; and 
we should remark the boastful positiveness of Romeo in 
a love of his own making, which is never shown where love 
is really near the heart. 

When the devout religion of mine eye 
Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires ! 
♦ * « * 

One fairer than my love ! the all-seeing sun 
Ne'er saw her match, since first the world begun. 

The character of the Nurse is the nearest of any thing in 
Shakspeare to a direct borrowing from mere observation ; 
and the reason is, that as in infancy and childhood the 
individual in nature is a representative of a class, — just as 
in describing one larch tree, you generalize a grove of them, 
— so it is nearly as much so in old age. The generalization 
is done to the poet's hand. Here you have the garrulity 
of age strengthened by the feelings of a long-trusted 
servant, whose sympathy with the mother's affections 
gives her privileges and rank in the household ; and observe 
the mode of connection by accidents of time and place, and 
the childHke fondness of repetition in a second childhood, 
and also that happy, humble, ducking under, yet constant 
resurgence against, the check of her superiors ! — 

Yes, madam ! — Yet I cannot choose but laugh, &c. 

In the fourth scene we have Mercutio introduced to us. 
! how shall I describe that exquisite ebullience and 

104 Notes on Romeo and Juliet 

overflow of youthful life, wafted on over the laughing waves 
of pleasure and prosperity, as a wanton beauty that dis- 
torts the face on which she knows her lover is gazing 
enraptured, and wrinkles her forehead in the triumph of 
its smoothness ! Wit ever wakeful, fancy busy and pro- 
creative as an insect, courage, an easy mind that, without 
cares of its own, is at once disposed to laugh away those of 
others, and yet to be interested in them, — these and all 
congenial qualities, melting into the common copula of 
them all, the man of rank and the gentleman, with all its 
excellences and all its weaknesses, constitute the character 
of Mercutio ! 
Act i. sc. 5. 

Tyh. It fits when such a villain is a guest ; 
I'll not endure him. 

Cap. He shall be endur'd. 
What, goodman boy ! — I say, he shall : — Go to ; — 
Am I the master he*re, or you ? — Go to. 
You'll not endure him ! — God shall mend my soul — 
You'll make a mutiny among my guests ! 
You will set cock-a-hoop ! you'll be the man 1 

Tyb. Why, uncle, 'tis a shame. 

Cap. Go to, go to. 
You are a saucy boy ! &c. — 

How admirable is the old man's impetuosity at once 
contrasting, yet harmonized, with young Tybalt's quarrel- 
some violence ! But it would be endless to repeat observa- 
tions of this sort. Every leaf is different on an oak tree ; 
but still we can only say — our tongues defrauding our eyes 
— 'This is another oak-leaf!* 

Act ii. sc. 2. The garden scene : 

Take notice in this enchanting scene of the contrast of 
Romeo's love with his former fancy ; and v/eigh the skill 
shown in justifjdng him from his inconstancy by making 
us feel the difference of his passion. Yet this, too, is a love 
in, although not merely of, the imagination. 


Jul. Well, do not swear ; although I joy in thee, 
I have no joy of this contract to-night : 
It is too rash, too unadvis'd, too sudden, &c. 

With love, pure love, there is always an anxiety for the 
safety of the object, a disinterestedness, by which it is 
distinguished from the counterfeits of its name. Compare 

Notes on Romeo and Juliet 105 

this scene with Act iii. sc. i. of the Tempest. I do not 
know a more wonderful instance of Shakspeare's mastery 
in playing a distinctly rememberable variety on the same 
remembered air, than in the transporting love confessions 
of Romeo and JuHet and Ferdinand and Miranda. There 
seems more passion in the one, and more dignity in the 
other ; yet you feel that the sweet girHsh lingering and busy 
movement of Juhet, and the calmer and more maidenly 
fondness of Miranda, might easily pass into each other. 

lb. sc. 3. The Friar's speech : — 

The reverend character of the Friar, hke all Shakspeare's 
representations of the great professions, is very delightful 
and tranquillizing, yet it is no digression, but immediately 
necessary to the carrying on of the plot. 

lb. sc. 4. 

Rom. Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give 
you ? &c. 

Compare again, Romeo's half-exerted, and half-real, 
ease of mind with his first manner when in love with 
Rosaline ! His will had come to the clenching point. 

lb. sc. 6. 

Rom. Do thou but close our hands with holy words. 
Then love-devouring death do what he dare, 
It is enough I may but call her mine. 

The precipitancy, which is the character of the play, is 
well marked in this short scene of waiting for Juliet's 

Act iii. sc. I. 

Mer. No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church 
door ; but 'tis enough : 'twill serve : ask for me to-morrow, and 
you shall find me a grave man, &c. 

How fine an effect the wit and raillery habitual to Mer- 
cutio, even struggling with his pain, give to Romeo's 
following speech, and at the same time so completely 
justifying his passionate revenge on Tybalt ! 

lb. Benvolio's speech : 

But that he tilts 
With piercing steel at bold Mercutio's breast. 

This small portion of untruth in Benvolio's narrative 
is finely conceived. 

io6 Notes on Romeo and Juliet 

lb. sc. 2. Juliet's speech : 

For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night 
Whiter than new snow on a raven's back. — 

Indeed the whole of this speech is imagination strained 
to the highest ; and observe the blessed effect on the purity 
of the mind. What would Dryden have made of it ? — 


Nurse. Shame come to Romeo. 
Jul. Blister' d be thy tongue 
For such a wish ! 

Note the Nurse's mistake of the mind's audible struggles 
with itself for its decision in toto. 
lb. sc. 3. Romeo's speech : — 

'Tis torture, and not mercy : heaven is here. 
Where Juliet lives, &c. 

All deep passions are a sort of atheists, that believe no 
lb. sc. 5. 

Cap. Soft, take me with you, take me with you, wife — 
How ! will she none ? &c. 

A noble scene ! Don't I see it with my own eyes ? — 
Yes ! but not with Juliet's. And observe in Capulet's 
last speech in this scene his mistake, as if love's causes 
were capable of being generalized. 

Act iv. sc. 3. Juliet's speech : — 

O, look ! methinks I see my cousin's ghost 
Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body 
Upon a rapier's point : — Stay, Tybalt, stay ! — 
Romeo, I come ! this do I drink to thee. 

Shakspeare provides for the finest decencies. It would 
have been too bold a thing for a girl of fifteen ; — but she 
swallows the draught in a fit of fright. 

lb. sc. 5. 

As the audience know that Juliet is not dead, this scene 
is, perhaps, excusable. But it is a strong warning to 
minor dramatists not to introduce at one time many 
separate characters agitated by one and the same circum- 
stance. It is difficult to understand what effect, whether 
that of pity or of laughter, Shakspeare meant to produce ; 
— the occasion and the characteristic speeches are so 

Shakspeare's Historical Plays 107 

little in harmony ! For example, what the Nurse says is 
excellently suited to the Nurse's character, but grotesquely 
unsuited to the occasion. 

Act V. sc. I. Romeo's speech : — 

O mischief ! thou art swift 
To enter in the thoughts of desperate men 1 
I do remember an apothecary, &c. 

This famous passage is so beautiful as to be self-justified ; 
yet, in addition, what a fine preparation it is for the tomb 
scene ! 

lb. sc. 3. Romeo's speech : — 

Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man. 
Fly hence and leave me. 

The gentleness of Romeo was shown before, as softened 
by love ; and now it is doubled by love and sorrow and 
awe of the place where he is. 

lb. Romeo's speech : — 

How oft when men are at the point of death 
Have they been merry ! which their keepers call 
A lightning before death. O, how may I 
Call this a lightning ? — O, my love, my wife ! &c. 

Here, here, is the master example how beauty can at 
once increase and modify passion ! 

lb. Last scene. 

How beautiful is the close ! The spring and the winter 
meet ; — winter assumes the character of spring, and spring 
the sadness of winter. 


The first form of poetry is the epic, the essence of which 
may be stated as the successive in events and characters. 
This must be distinguished from narration, in which there 
must always be a narrator, from whom the objects re- 
presented receive a colouring and a manner ; — whereas in 
the epic, as in the so called poems of Homer, the whole 
is completely objective, and the representation is a pure 
reflection. The next form into which poetry passed was 

io8 Shakspeare's English 

the dramatic ; — both forms having a common basis with 
a certain difference, and that difference not consisting in 
the dialogue alone. Both are founded on the relation of 
providence to the human will ; and this relation is the 
universal element, expressed under different points of view 
according to the difference of religion, and the moral and 
intellectual cultivation of different nations. In the epic 
poem fate is represented as overruling the will, and making 
it instrumental to the accomplishment of its designs : — 

Albs S^ TeXetero jSouXij. 

In the drama, the wiU is exhibited as struggling with fate, 
a great and beautiful instance and illustration of which is 
the Prometheus of iEschylus ; and the deepest effect is 
produced, when the fate is represented as a higher and 
intelligent will, and the opposition of the individual as 
springing from a defect. 

In order that a drama may be properly historical, it is 
necessary that it should be the history of the people to 
whom it is addressed. In the composition, care must be 
taken that there appear no dramatic improbability, as the 
reality is taken for granted. It must, likewise, be 
poetical ; — that only, I mean, must be taken which is the 
permanent in our nature, which is common, and therefore 
deeply interesting to all ages. The events themselves are 
immaterial, otherwise than as the clothing and manifesta- 
tion of the spirit that is working within. In this mode, the 
unity resulting from succession is destroyed, but is supplied 
by a unity of a higher order, which connects the events by 
reference to the workers, gives a reason for them in the 
motives, and presents men in their causative character. 
It takes, therefore, that part of real history which is the 
least known, and infuses a principle of life and organization 
into the naked facts, and makes them all the framework of 
an animated whole. 

In my happier days, while I had yet hope and onward- 
looking thoughts, I planned an historical drama of King 
Stephen, in the manner of Shakspeare. Indeed it would 
be desirable that some man of dramatic genius should 
dramatize all those omitted by Shakspeare, as far down as 
Henry VII. Perkin Warbeck would make a most interest- 
ing drama. A few scenes of Marlow's Edward II. might 
be preserved. After Henry VIII., the events are too weU 

Historical Plays 109 

and distinctly known, to be, without plump inverisimili- 
tude, crowded together in one night's exhibition. Where- 
as, the history of our ancient kings — the events of their 
reigns, I mean, — are like stars in the sky ; — whatever the 
real interspaces may be, and however great, they seem 
close to each other. The stars — the events — strike us and 
remain in our eye, little modified by the difference of dates. 
An historic drama is, therefore, a collection of events 
borrowed from history, but connected together in respect 
of cause and time, poetically and by dramatic fiction. It 
would be a fine national custom to act such a series of 
dramatic histories in orderly succession, in the yearly 
Christmas holidays, and could not but tend to counteract 
that mock cosmopolitism, which under a positive term 
really implies nothing but a negation of, or indifference to, 
the particular love of our country. By its nationality 
must every nation retain its independence ; — I mean a 
nationality quoad the nation. Better thus ; — nationality 
in each individual, quoad his country, is equal to the sense 
of individuality quoad himself ; but himself as subsen- 
suous, and central. Patriotism is equal to the sense of 
individuality reflected from every other individual. There 
may come a higher virtue in both — just cosmopolitism. 
But this latter is not possible but by antecedence of the 

Shakspeare has included the most important part of 
nine reigns in his historical dramas — namely — King John, 
Richard II.— Henry IV. (two)— Henry V.— Henry VI. 
(three) including Edward V. and Henry VIII., in all ten 
plays. There remain, therefore, to be done, with the 
exception of a single scene or two that should be adopted 
from Marlow — eleven reigns — of which the first two appear 
the only unpromising subjects ; — and those two dramas 
must be formed whoUy or mainly of invented private 
stories, which, however, could not have happened except 
in consequence of the events and measures of these reigns, 
and which should furnish opportunity both of exhibiting 
the manners and oppressions of the times, and of narrating 
dramatically the great events ; — if possible, the death of 
the two sovereigns, at least of the latter, should be made 
to have some influence on the finale of the story. All the 
rest are glorious subjects ; especially Henry ist. (being 
the struggle between the men of arms and of letters, in the 

no Shakspeare's English 

persons of Henry and Becket,) Stephen, Richard I., 
Edward II., and Henry VII. 


Act i. sc. I. 

Bast. James Gurney, wilt thou give us leave awhile ? 
Gur. Good leave, good Philip. 
Bast. Philip ? sparrow I James, &c. 

Theobald adopts Warburton's conjecture of 'spare me.' 

true Warburton ! and the sanota simplicitas of honest 
dull Theobald's faith in him ! Nothing can be more 
hvely or characteristic than 'Philip? Sparrow!' Had 
Warburton read old Skelton's 'Philip Sparrow,' an ex- 
quisite and original poem, and, no doubt, popular in 
Shakspeare's time, even Warburton would scarcely have 
made so deep a plunge into the bathetic as to have deathified 
'sparrow' into 'spare me!' 

Act iii. sc. 2. Speech of Faulconbridge : — 

Now, by my life, this day grows wondrous hot ; 
Some airy devil hovers in the sky, &c. 

Theobald adopts Warburton's conjecture of 'fiery.' 

1 prefer the old text : the word 'devil' implies 'fiery.' 
You need only read the line, laying a full and strong 
emphasis on 'devil,' to perceive the uselessness and taste- 
iessness of W^ar burton's alteration. 


I HAVE stated that the transitional link between the epic 
poem and the drama is the historic drama ; that in the 
epic poem a pre-announced fate gradually adjusts and 
employs the will and the events as its instruments, whilst 
the drama, on the other hand, places fate and will in 
opposition to each other, and is then most perfect, when 
the victory of fate is obtained in consequence of imperfec- 
tions in the opposing will, so as to leave a final impression 
that the fate itself is but a higher and a more intelhgent 

Historical Plays iii 

From the length of the speeches, and the circumstance 
that, with one exception, the events are all historical, and 
presented in their results, not produced by acts seen by, 
or taking place before, the audience, this tragedy is ill 
suited to our present large theatres. But in itself, and 
for the closet, I feel no hesitation in placing it as the first 
and most admirable of all Shakspeare's purely historical 
plays. For the two parts of Henry IV. form a species of 
themselves, which may be named the mixed drama. The 
distinction does not depend on the mere quantity of 
historical events in the play compared with the fictions ; 
for there is as much history in Macbeth as in Richard, 
but in the relation of the history to the plot. In the purely 
historical plays, the history forms the plot ; in the mixed, 
it directs it ; in the rest, as Macbeth, Hamlet, C5nTibeline, 
Lear, it subserves it. But, however unsuited to the stage 
this drama may be, God forbid that even there it should 
fall dead on the hearts of jacobinized Englishmen ! Then, 
indeed, we might say — -prcBteriit gloria mundi ! For the 
spirit of patriotic reminiscence is the all-permeating soul 
of this noble work. It is, perhaps, the most purely 
historical of Shakspeare's dramas. There are not in it, 
as in the others, characters introduced merely for the 
purpose of giving a greater individuality and realness, 
as in the comic parts of Henry IV., by presenting, as it 
were, our very selves. Shakspeare avails himself of every 
opportunity to effect the great object of the historic 
drama, that, namely, of familiarizing the people to the 
great names of their country, and thereby of exciting a 
steady patriotism, a love of just liberty, and a respect for 
aU those fundamental institutions of social hfe, which bind 
men together : — 

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle. 

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, 

This other Eden, demi-paradise ; 

This fortress, built by nature for herself, 

Against infection, and the hand of war ; 

This happy breed of men, this little world 

This precious stone set in the silver sea. 

Which serves it in the office of a wall, 

Or as a moat defensive to a home, 

Against the envy of less happier lands ; 

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, 

This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, 

Fear'd by their breed, and famous by their birth, &c. 

112 Shakspeare's English 

Add the famous passage in King John : — 

This England never did, nor ever shall, 

Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, 

But when it first did help to wound itself. 

Now these her princes are come home again, 

Come the three corners of the world in arms. 

And we shall shock them : nought shall make us rue. 

If England to itself do rest but true. 

And it certainly seems that Shakspeare's historic dramas 
produced a very deep effect on the minds of the EngUsh 
people, and in earUer times they were familiar even to the 
least informed of all ranks, according to the relation of 
Bishop Corbett. Marlborough, we know, was not ashamed 
to confess that his principal acquaintance with English 
history was derived from them ; and I believe that a large 
part of the information as to our old names and achieve- 
ments even now abroad is due, directly or indirectly, to 

Admirable is the judgment with which Shakspeare 
cdways in the first scenes prepares, yet how naturally, and 
with what concealment of art, for the catastrophe. Observe 
how he here presents the germ of all the after events 
in Richard's insincerity, partiality, arbitrariness, and 
favoritism, and in the proud, tempestuous, temperament 
of his barons. In the very beginning, also, is displayed 
that feature in Richard's character, which is never for- 
gotten throughout the play — his attention to decorum, 
and high feeling of the kingly dignity. These anticipations 
show with what judgment Shakspeare wrote, and illustrate 
his care to connect the past and future, and unify them 
with the present by forecast and reminiscence. 

It is interesting to a critical ear to compare the six open- 
ing lines of the play — 

Old John of Gaunt, time-honour' d Lancaster, 
Hast thou, according to thy oath and band, &c. 

each closing at the tenth syllable, with the rhythmless 
metre of the verse in Henry VI. and Titus Andronicus, in 
order that the difference, indeed, the heterogeneity, of the 
two may be felt etiam in simillimis prima siiperficie. Here 
the weight of the single words supplies all the rehef afforded 
by intercurrent verse, while the whole represents the mood. 

Historical Plays 113 

And compare the apparently defective metre of Boling- 
broke's first line, — 

Many years of happy days befall — 
with Prospero's, 

Twelve years since, Miranda ! twelve years since — 

The actor should supply the time by emphasis, and pause 
on the first syllable of each of these verses. 
Act i. sc. I. Bolingbroke's speech : — 

First, (heaven be the record to my speech !) 
In the devotion of a subject's love, &c. 

I remember in the Sophoclean drama no more striking 
example of the ro Trpivov %ai 6ifjjvov than this speech ; 
and the rh57mes in the last six lines well express the pre- 
concertedness of Bolingbroke's scheme so beautifully 
contrasted with the vehemence and sincere irritation of 

lb. Bolingbroke's speech : — 

Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries. 
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth, 
To me, for justice and rough chastisement. 

Note the bimv of this 'to me,' which is evidently felt by 
Richard : — 

How high a pitch his resolution soars 1 

and the affected depreciation afterwards ; — 

As he is but my father's brother's son. 

lb. Mowbray's speech : — 

In haste whereof, most heartily I pray 
Your highness to aissign our trial day. 

The occasional interspersion of rhymes, and the more 
frequent winding up of a speech therewith — what purpose 
was this designed to answer ? In the earnest drama, I 
mean. Deliberateness ? An attempt, ais in Mowbray, 
to collect himself and be cool at the close ? — I can see that 
in the following speeches the rhyme answers the end of the 
Greek chorus, and distinguishes the general truths from 
the passions of the dialogue ; but this does not exactly 
justify the practice, which is unfrequent in proportion to 
the excellence of Shakspeare's plays. One thing, however. 

114 Shakspeare's English 

is to be observed, — that the speakers are historical, known, 
and so far formal, characters, and their reality is already 
a fact. This should be borne in mind. The whole of this 
scene of the quarrel between Mowbray and Bolingbroke 
seems introduced for the purpose of showing by anticipa- 
tion the characters of Richard and Bolingbroke. In the 
latter there is observable a decorous and courtly checking 
of his anger in subservience to a predetermined plan, 
especially in his calm speech after receiving sentence of 
banishment compared with Mowbray's unaffected lamenta- 
tion. In the one, all is ambitious hope of something yet 
to come ; in the other it is desolation and a looking 
backward of the heart, 
lb. sc. 2. 

Gaunt. Heaven's is the quarrel ; for heaven's substitute. 
His deputy anointed in his right, 
Hath caus'd his death : the which, ii wrongfully, 
Let heaven revenge ; for I may never lift 
An angry arm against his minister. 

Without the hollow extravagance of Beaumont and 
Fletcher's ultra-royalism, how carefully does Shakspeare 
acknowledge and reverence the eternal distinction between 
the mere individual, and the symbolic or representative, 
on which all genial law, no less than patriotism, depends. 
The whole of this second scene commences, and is anti- 
cipative of, the tone and character of the play at large. 

lb. sc. 3. In none of Shakspeare's fictitious dramas, or 
in those founded on a history as unknown to his auditors 
generally as fiction, is this violent rupture of the succession 
of time found : — a proof, I think, that the pure historic 
drama, like Richard II. and King John, had its own laws. 

lb. Mowbray's speech : — 

A dearer merit 

Have I deserved at your highness' hands. 

O, the instinctive propriety of Shakspeare in the choice 
of words ! 

lb. Richard's speech : 

Nor never by advised purpose meet, 
To plot, contrive, or complot any ill, 
'Gainst us, our state, our subjects, or our land. 

Already the selfish weakness of Richard's character 

Historical Plays 115 

opens. Nothing will such minds so readily embrace, as 
indirect ways softened down to their quasi-consciences 
by policy, expedience, &c. 
lb. Mowbray's speech : — 

' All the world's my way.* 

' The world was all before him.' — Milt. 


Baling. How long a time lies in our little word ! 

Four lagging winters, and four wanton springs, 
End in a word : such is the breath of kings. 

Admirable anticipation ! 

lb. sc. 4. This is a striking conclusion of a first act, — 
letting the reader into the secret ; — having before impressed 
us with the dignified and kingly manners of Richard, yet 
by well managed anticipations leading us on to the full 
gratification of pleasure in our own penetration. In this 
scene a new light is thrown on Richard's character. Until 
now he has appeared in all the beauty of royalty ; but 
here, as soon as he is left to himself, the inherent weakness 
of his character is immediately shown. It is a weakness, 
however, of a pecuhar kind, not arising from want of 
personal courage, or any specific defect of faculty, but 
rather an intellectual feminineness, which feels a necessity 
of ever leaning on the breasts of others, and of reclining on 
those who are aU the while known to be inferiors. To this 
must be attributed as its consequences aU Richard's vices, 
his tendency to concealment, and his cunning, the whole 
operation of which is directed to the getting rid of present 
difficulties. Richard is not meant to be a debauchee ; 
but we see in him that sophistry which is common to man, 
by which we can deceive our own hearts, and at one and 
the same time apologize for, and yet commit, the error. 
Shakspeare has represented this character in a very 
peculiar manner. He has not made him amiable with 
counterbalancing faults ; but has openly and broadly 
drawn those faults without reserve, relying on Richard's 
disproportionate sufferings and gradually emergent good 
qualities for our sympathy ; and this was possible, because 
his faults are not positive vices, but spring entirely from 
defect of character. 

Act ii. sc. I. 

K. Rich. Can sick men play so nicely with their names ? 

ii6 Shakspeare's English 

Yes ! on a death-bed there is a feeling which may make 
all things appear but as puns and equivocations. And a 
passion there is that carries off its own excess by plays on 
words as naturally, and, therefore, as appropriately to 
drama, as by gesticulations, looks, or tones. This belongs 
to human nature as such, independently of associations 
and habits from any particular rank of hfe or mode of 
employment ; and in this consists Shakspeare's vulgarisms, 
as in Macbeth' s — 

The devil damn thee black, thou cream-fac'd loon ! &c. 

This is (to equivocate on Dante's words) in truth the nohile 
volgare eloqiienza. Indeed it is profoundly true that there 
is a natural, an almost irresistible, tendency in the mind, 
when immersed in one strong feeling, to connect that 
feeling with every sight and object around it ; especially 
if there be opposition, and the words addressed to it are 
in any way repugnant to the feeling itself, as here in the 
instance of Richard's unkind language : 

Misery makes sport to mock itself. 
No doubt, something of Shakspeare's punning must be 
attributed to his age, in which direct and formal combats 
of wit were a favourite pastime of the courtly and accom- 
plished. It was an age more favourable, upon the whole, 
to vigour of intellect than the present, in which a dread of 
being thought pedantic dispirits and flattens the energies of 
original minds. But independently of this, I have no 
hesitation in saying that a pun, if it be congruous with the 
feeling of the scene, is not only allowable in the dramatic 
dialogue, but oftentimes one of the most effectual in- 
tensives of passion. 

K. Rich. Right ; you say true : as Hereford's love, so his ; 
As theirs, so mine ; and all be as it is. 

The depth of this compared with the first scene : — 
How high a pitch, &c. 

There is scarcely anything in Shakspeare in its degree, 
more admirably drawn than York's character ; his religious 
loyalty struggling with a deep grief and indignation at the 
king's follies ; his adherence to his word and faith, once 
given in spite of all, even the most natural, feelings. You 
see in him the weakness of old age, and the oven.vhelming- 

Historical Plays 117 

ness of circumstances, for a time surmounting his sense of 
duty, — the junction of both exhibited in his boldness in 
words and feebleness in immediate act ; and then again 
his effort to retrieve himself in abstract loyalty, even at the 
heavy price of the loss of his son. This species of accidental 
and adventitious weakness is brought into parallel with 
Richard's continually increasing energy of thought, and 
as constantly diminishing power of acting ; — and thus it 
is Richard that breathes a harmony and a relation into all 
the characters of the play. 
lb. sc. 2. 

Queen. To please the king I did ; to please myself 
I cannot do it ; yet I know no cause 
Why I should welcome such a guest as grief, 
Save bidding farewell to so sweet a guest 
As my sweet Richard : yet again, methinks, 
Some unborn sorrow, ripe in sorrow's womb, 
Is coming toward me ; and my inward soul 
With nothing trembl-es : at something it grieves. 
More than with parting from my lord the king. 

It is clear that Shakspeare never meant to represent 
Richard as a vulgar debauchee, but a man with a wanton- 
ness of spirit in external show, a feminine friendism, an 
intensity of woman-like love of those immediately about 
him, and a mistaking of the delight of being loved by him 
for a love of him. And mark in this scene Shakspeare's 
gentleness in touching the tender superstitions, the 
tence- incognitce of presentiments, in the human mind ; and 
how sharp a line of distinction he commonly draws between 
these obscure forecastings of general experience in each 
individual, and the vulgar errors of mere tradition. Indeed 
it may be taken once for all as the truth, that Shakspeare, 
in the absolute universality of his genius, always rever- 
ences whatever arises out of our moral nature ; he never 
profanes his muse with a contemptuous reasoning away of 
the genuine and general, however unaccountable, feelings 
of mankind. 

The amiable part of Richard's character is brought full 
upon us by his queen's few words — 

.... so sweet a guest 
As my sweet Richard ; — 

and Shakspeare has carefully shown in him an intense love of 
his country, well-knowing how that feeling would, in a pure 

ii8 Shakspeare's English 

historic drama, redeem him in the hearts of the audience. 
Yet even in this love there is something feminine and 
personal : — 

Deax earth, I do salute thee with my hand, — 
As a long parted mother with her child 
Plays fondly with her tears, and smiles in meeting ; 
So weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth. 
And do thee favour with my royal hands. 

With this is combined a constant overflow of emotions 
from a total incapability of controlling them, and thence a 
waste of that energy, which should have been reserved for 
actions, in the passion and effort of mere resolves and 
menaces. The consequence is moral exhaustion, and rapid 
alternations of unmanly despair and ungrounded hope, — 
every feeling being abandoned for its direct opposite upon 
the pressure of external accident. And yet when Richard's 
inward weakness appears to seek refuge in his despair, and 
his exhaustion counterfeits repose, the old habit of kingU- 
ness, the effect of flatterers from his infancy, is ever and 
anon producing in him a sort of wordy courage which only 
serves to betray more clearly his internal impotence. The 
second and third scenes of the third act combine and 
illustrate all this : — 

A umerle. He means, my lord, that we are too remiss ; 
Whilst Bolingbroke, through our security, 
Grows strong and great, in substance, and in friends. 

K, Rich. Discomfortable cousin ! know'st thou not. 

That when the searching eye of heaven is hid 

Behind the globe, and lights the lower world. 

Then thieves and robbers range abroad unseen. 

In murders and in outrage, boldly here ; 

But when, from under this terrestrial ball. 

He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines, 

And darts his light through every guilty hole. 

Then murders, treasons, and detested sins, 

The cloke of night being pluck' d from off their backs. 

Stand bare and naked, trembling at themselves ? 

So when this thief, this traitor, Bolingbroke, &c. 

* * * * 

Aumerle. Where is the Duke my father with his power ? 

K. Rich. No matter where ; of comfort no man speak : 
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs, 
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes 
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth, &c. 
* * * * 

Aumerle. My father hath a power, enquire of him ; 
And learn to make a body of a limb. 

Historical Plays 119 

K. Rich. Thou chid'st me well : proud Bolingbroke, I come 
To change blows with thee for our day of doom. 
This ague-fit of fear is over-blown ; 
An easy task it is to win our own, 

* * * * 

Scroop. Your uncle York is join'd with Bolingbroke. — 

* * * * 

K. Rich. Thou hast said enough, 

Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth 

Of that sweet way I was in to despair ! 

What say you now ? what comfort have we now ? 

By heaven, I'll hate him everlastingly, 

That bids me be of comfort any more. 

* * ♦ * 

Act iii. sc. 3. Bolingbroke's speech : 

Noble lord, 

Go to the rude ribs of that ancient castle, &c. 

Observe the fine struggle of a haughty sense of power and 
ambition in BoUngbroke with the necessity for dissimula- 

lb. sc. 4. See here the skill and judgment of our poet in 
giving reality and individual life, by the introduction of 
accidents in his historic plays, and thereby making them 
dramas, and not histories. How beautiful an islet of 
repose — a melancholy repose, indeed — is this scene with 
the Gardener and his Servant. And how truly affecting 
and realizing is the incident of the very horse Barbary, in 
the scene with the Groom in the last act ! — 

Groom. I was a poor groom of thy stable. King, 

When thou wert King ; who, travelling towards York, 
With much ado, at length have gotten leave 
To look upon my sometimes master's face. 
O, how it yearn'd my heart, when I beheld. 
In London streets, that coronation day, 
\^^len Bolingbroke rode on roan Barbary ! 
That horse, that thou so often hast bestrid ; 
That horse, that I so carefully have dress'd I 
K. Rich. Rode he on Barbary ? 

Bolingbroke's character, in general, is an instance how 
Shakspeare makes one play introductory to another ; for 
it is evidently a preparation for Henry IV., as Gloster 
in the third part of Henry VI. is for Richard III. 

I would once more remark upon the exalted idea of the 
only true loyalty developed in this noble and impressive 
play. We have neither the rants of Beaumont and 

I20 Shakspeare's English 

Fletcher, nor the sneers of Massinger ; — the vast import- 
ance of the personal character of the sovereign is distinctly 
enounced, whilst, at the same time, the genuine sanctity 
which surrounds him is attributed to, and grounded on, 
the position in which he stands as the convergence and 
exponent of the life and power of the state. 

The great end of the body politic appears to be to 
humanize, and assist in the progressiveness of, the animal 
man ; — but the problem is so complicated with contin- 
gencies as to render it nearly impossible to lay down rules 
for the formation of a state. And should we be able to 
form a system of government, which should so balance its 
different powers as to form a check upon each, and so 
continually remedy and correct itself, it would, neverthe- 
less, defeat its own aim ; — for man is destined to be guided 
by higher principles, by universal views, which can never 
be fulfilled in this state of existence, — by a spirit of pro- 
gressiveness which can never be accomplished, for then it 
would cease to be. Plato's Republic is like Bunyan's 
Town of Man-Soul, — a description of an individual, all of 
whose faculties are in their proper subordination and inter- 
dependence ; and this it is assumed may be the prototype 
of the state as one great individual. But there is this 
sophism in it, that it is forgotten that the human faculties, 
indeed, are parts and not separate things ; but that you 
could never get chiefs who were wholly reason, ministers 
who were wholly understanding, soldiers all wrath, 
labourers all concupiscence, and so on through the rest. 
Each of these partakes of, and interferes with, all the 


Act i. sc. I. King Henry's speech : 

No more the thirsty entrance of this soil 

Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood. 

A MOST obscure passage : but I think Theobald's inter- 
pretation right, namely, that 'thirsty entrance' means the 
dry penetrability, or bibulous drought, of the soil. The 
obscurity of this passage is of the Shakspearian sort. 

lb. sc. 2. In this, the first introduction of Falstaff, 

Historical Plays 121 

observe the consciousness and the intentionality of his 
wit, so that when it does not flow of its own accord, its 
absence is felt, and an effort visibly made to recall it. 
Note also throughout how Falstaff's pride is gratified in 
the power of influencing a prince of the blood, the heir 
apparent, by means of it. Hence his dishke to Prince John 
of Lancaster, and his mortification when he finds his wit 
fail on him : — 

P. John. Fare you well, Falstaff : I, in my condition. 
Shall better speak of you than you deserve. 

Fal. I would you had but the wit ; 'twere better than your 
dukedom. — Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth 
not love me ; — nor a man cannot make him laugh. 

Act ii. sc. I. Second Carrier's speech : — 
.... breeds fleas like a loach. 

Perhaps it is a misprint, or a provincial pronunciation, 
for 'leach,' that is, blood-suckers. Had it been gnats, 
instead of fleas, there might have been some sense, though 
small probability, in Warbur ton's suggestion of the Scottish 
*loch.' Possibly 'loach,' or 'lutch,' may be some lost 
word for dovecote, or poultry-lodge, notorious for breeding 
fleas. In Stevens's or my reading, it should properly be 
'loaches,' or 'leeches,' in the plural ; except that I think 
I have heard anglers speak of trouts hke a salmon. 

Act iii. sc. I. 

Glend. Nay, if you melt, then will she run mad. 

This 'nay' so to be dwelt on in speaking, as to be equiva- 
lent to a dissyllable -u, is characteristic of the solemn 
Glendower ; but the imperfect line 

She bids you 

On the wanton rushes lay you down, &c. 

is one of those fine hair-strokes of exquisite judgment 
peculiar to Shakspeare ; — thus detaching the Lady's 
speech, and giving it the individuality and entireness of 
a little poem, while he draws attention to it. 

122 Shakspeare's English 

Act ii. sc. 2. 

P. Hen. Sup any women with him ? 

Page. None, my lord, but old mistress Quickly, and mistress 
Doll Tear-sheet. 

» * 4: * 

P. Hen. This Doll Tear-sheet should be some road. 

I AM sometimes disposed to think that this respectable 
young lady's name is a very old corruption for Tear-street — 
street-walker, terere stratam (viam.) Does not the Prince's 
question rather show this ? — 

' This Doll Tear-street should be some road ? * 

Act iii. sc. I. King Henry's speech : 

Then, happy low, lie down ; 

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. 

I know no argument by which to persuade any one to be 
of my opinion, or rather of my feeling ; but yet I cannot 
help feeling that 'Happy low-lie-down !' is either a pro- 
verbial expression, or the burthen of some old song, and 
means, 'Happy the man, who lays himself down on his 
straw bed or chaff pallet on the ground or floor ! ' 

lb. sc. 2. Shallow's speech : — 

Rah, tah, tah, would 'a say ; bounce, would 'a say, &c. 

That Beaumont and Fletcher have more than once been 
guilty of sneering at their great master, cannot, I fear, be 
denied ; but the passage quoted by Theobald from the 
Knight of the Burning Pestle is an imitation. If it be 
chargeable with any fault, it is with plagiarism, not with 


Act i. sc. 2. Westmoreland's speech : — 

They know your grace hath cause, and means, and might ; 
So hath your highness ; never King of England 
Had nobles richer, &c. 

Does 'grace' mean the king's own peculiar domains and 
legal revenue, and 'highness' his feudal rights in the 

Historical Plays 123 

military service of his nobles ? — I have sometimes thought 
it possible that the words 'grace* and 'cause' may have 
been transposed in the copying or printing ; — 

They know your cause hath grace, &c. 

What Theobald meant, I cannot guess. To me his point- 
ing makes the passage still more obscure. Perhaps the 
lines ought to be recited dramatically thus : 

They know your Grace hath cause, and means, and might : — 
So hath your Highness — never King of England 
Had nobles richer, &c. 

He breaks off from the grammar and natural order from 
earnestness, and in order to give the meaning more 

lb. Exeter's speech : — 

Yet that is but a crush' d necessity. 

Perhaps it may be 'crash' for 'crass' from crassus, 
clumsy ; or it may be 'curt,' defective, imperfect : any- 
thing would be better than Warburton's "scus'd,' which 
honest Theobald, of course, adopts. By the by, it seems 
clear to me that this speech of Exeter's properly belongs to 
Canterbury, and was altered by the actors for convenience. 

Act iv. sc. 3. K. Henry's speech : — 

We would not die in that man's company 
That fears his fellowship to die with us. 

Should it not be 'live' in the first line ? 
lb. sc. 5. 

Const. O diable I 

Orl. O seigneur ! le jour est perdu, tout est perdu t 

Dan. Mart de ma vie ! all is confounded, all ! 

Reproach and everlasting shame 

Sit mocking in our plumes ! — O meschante fortune I 

Do not run away ! 

Ludicrous as these introductory scraps of French appear, 
so instantly followed by good, nervous mother-English, 
yet they are judicious, and produce the impression which 
Shakspeare intended, — a sudden feeling struck at once on 
the ears, as well as the eyes, of the audience, that 'here 
come the French, the baffled French braggards !' — And 
this will appear still more judicious, when we reflect on 
the scanty apparatus of distinguishing dresses in Shak- 
speare's tyring-room. 

124 Shakspeare's English 


Act i. sc. I. Bedford's speech : — 

Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night I 
Comets, importing change of times and states. 
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky ; 
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars 
That have consented unto Henry's death ! 
King Henry the fifth, too famous to live long ! 
England ne'er lost a king of so much worths 

Read aloud any two or three passages in blank verse even 
from Shakspeare's earUest dramas, as Love's Labour's 
Lost, or Romeo and Juliet ; and then read in the same 
way this speech, with especial attention to the metre ; 
and if you do not feel the impossibility of the latter having 
been written by Shakspeare, all I dare suggest is, that you 
may have ears, — for so has another animal, — but an ear 
you cannot have, me judice. 


This play should be contrasted with Richard II. Pride 
of intellect is the characteristic of Richard, carried to the 
extent of even boasting to his own mind of his villany, 
whilst others are present to feed his pride of superiority ; 
as in his first speech, act ii. sc. i. Shakspeare here, as in 
aU his great parts, developes in a tone of sublime morality 
the dreadful consequences of placing the moral, in sub- 
ordination to the mere intellectual, being. In Richard 
there is a predomincince of irony, accompanied with 
apparently blunt manners to those immediately about 
him, but formalized into a more set hypocrisy towards the 
people as represented by their magistrates. 


Of all Shakspeare's plays Macbeth is the most rapid, 
Hamlet the slowest, in movement. Lear combines length 
with rapidity, — hke the hurricane and the whirlpool, 
absorbing while it advances. It begins as a stormy day 

Historical Plays 125 

in summer, with brightness ; but that brightness is lurid, 
and anticipates the tempest. 

It was not without forethought, nor is it without its due 
significance, that the division of Lear's kingdom is in the 
first six hues of the play stated as a thing already deter- 
mined in all its particulars, previously to the trial of 
professions, as the relative rewards of which the daughters 
were to be made to consider their several portions. The 
strange, yet by no means unnatural, mixture of selfishness, 
sensibility, and habit of feeling derived from, and fostered 
by, the particular rank and usages of the individual ; — 
the intense desire of being intensely beloved, — selfish, and 
yet characteristic of the selfishness of a loving and kindly 
nature alone ; — the self-supportless leaning for all pleasure 
on another's breast ; — the craving after sympathy with a 
prodigal disinterestedness, frustrated by its own ostenta- 
tion, and the mode and nature of its claims ; — the anxiety, 
the distrust, the jealousy, which more or less accompany 
all selfish affections, and are amongst the surest contra- 
distinctions of mere fondness from true love, and which 
originate Lear's eager wish to enjoy his daughter's violent 
professions, whilst the inveterate habits of sovereignty 
convert the wish into claim and positive right, and an 
incompliance with it into crime and treason ; — these facts, 
these passions, these moral verities, on which the whole 
tragedy is founded, are all prepared for, and will to the 
retrospect be found implied, in these first four or five lines 
of the play. They let us know that the trial is but a trick ; 
and that the grossness of the old king's rage is in part the 
natural result of a silly trick suddenly and most unex- 
pectedly baffled and disappointed. 

It may here be worthy of notice, that Lear is the only 
serious performance of Shakspeare, the interest and situa- 
tions of which are derived from the assumption of a gross 
improbability ; whereas Beaumont and Fletcher's tra- 
gedies are, almost all of them, founded on some out of 
the way accident or exception to the general experience 
of mankind. But observe the matchless judgment of our 
Shakspeare. First, improbable as the conduct of Lear 
is in the first scene, yet it was an old story rooted in the 
popular faith, — a thing taken for granted already, and 
consequently without any of the effects of improbabiUty. 
Secondly, it is merely the canvass for the characters and 

126 Shakspeare's English 

passions, — a mere occasion for, — and not, in the manner 
of Beaumont and Fletcher, perpetually recurring as the 
cause, and sine qua non of, — the incidents and emotions. 
Let the first scene of this play have been lost, and let it 
only be understood that a fond father had been duped by 
hypocritical professions of love and duty on the part of two 
daughters to disinherit the third, previously, and de- 
servedly, more dear to him ; — and all the rest of the 
tragedy would retain its interest undiminished, and be 
perfectly intelligible. The accidental is nowhere the 
groundwork of the passions, but that which is cathohc, 
which in all ages has been, and ever will be, close and 
native to the heart of man, — parental anguish from filial 
ingratitude, the genuineness of worth, though confined in 
bluntness, and the execrable vileness of a smooth iniquity. 
Perhaps I ought to have added the Merchant of Venice ; 
but here too the same remarks apply. It was an old tale ; 
and substitute any other danger than that of the pound of 
flesh (the circumstance in which the improbability lies), 
yet all the situations and the emotions appertaining to 
them remain equally excellent and appropriate. Where- 
as take away from the Mad Lover of Beaumont and 
Fletcher the fantastic hypothesis of his engagement to cut 
out his own heart, and have it presented to his mistress, 
and all the main scenes must go with it. 

Kotzebue is the German Beaumont and Fletcher, with- 
out their poetic powers, and without their vis comica. 
But, like them, he always deduces his situations and 
passions from marvellous accidents, and the trick of bring- 
ing one part of our moral nature to counteract another ; 
as our pity for misfortune and admiration of generosity 
and courage to combat our condemnation of guilt, as in 
adultery, robbery, and other heinous crimes ; — and, like 
them too, he excels in his mode of telling a story clearly 
and interestingly, in a series of dramatic dialogues. Only 
the trick of making tragedy-heroes and heroines out of 
shopkeepers and barmaids was too low for the age, and 
too unpoetic for the genius, of Beaumont and Fletcher, 
inferior in every respect as they are to their great pre- 
decessor and contemporary. How inferior would they 
have appeared, had not Shakspeare existed for them to 
imitate ; — which in every play, more or less, they do, and 
in their tragedies most glaringly : — and yet — (O shame ! 

Historical Plays 127 

shame !) — they miss no opportunity of sneering at the 
divine man, and sub-detracting from his merits ! 

To return to Lear, Having thus in the fewest words, 
and in a natural reply to as natural a question, — which 
yet answers the secondary purpose of attracting our atten- 
tion to the difference or diversity between the characters 
of Cornwall and Albany, — provided the premisses and 
data, as it were, for our after insight into the mind and 
mood of the person, whose character, passions, and suffer- 
ings are the main subject-matter of the play ; — from Lear, 
the persona patiens of his drama, Shakspeare passes without 
delay to the second in importance, the chief agent and 
prime mover, and introduces Edmund to our acquaintance, 
preparing us with the same felicity of judgment, and in 
the same easy and natural way, for his character in the 
seemingly casual communication of its origin and occasion. 
From the first drawing up of the curtain Edmund has 
stood before us in the united strength and beauty of earliest 
manhood. Our eyes have been questioning him. Gifted 
as he is with high advantages of person, and further en- 
dowed by nature with a powerful intellect and a strong 
energetic will, even without any concurrence of circum- 
stances and accident, pride will necessarily be the sin that 
most easily besets him. But Edmund is also the known 
and acknowledged son of the princely Gloster : he, there- 
fore, has both the germ of pride, and the conditions best 
fitted to evolve and ripen it into a predominant feeling. 
Yet hitherto no reason appears why it should be other 
than the not unusual pride of person, talent, and birth, — 
a pride auxiliary, if not akin, to many virtues, and the 
natural ally of honourable impulses. But alas ! in his 
own presence his own father takes shame to himself for 
the frank avowal that he is his father, — he has 'blushed 
so often to acknowledge him that he is now brazed to 
it ! ' Edmund hears the circumstances of his birth spoken 
of with a most degrading and licentious levity, — his 
mother described as a wanton by her own paramour, and 
the remembrance of the animal sting, the low criminal 
gratifications connected with her wantonness and pro- 
stituted beauty, assigned as the reason, why 'the 
whoreson must be acknowledged !' This, and the con- 
sciousness of its notoriety ; the gnawing conviction that 
every show of respect is an effort of courtesy, which recalls, 

128 Notes on Lear 

while it represses, a contrary feeling ; — this is the ever 
trickling flow of wormwood and gall into the wounds of 
pride, — the corrosive virus which inoculates pride with 
a venom not its own, with envy, hatred, and a lust for that 
power which in its blaze of radiance would hide the dark 
spots on his disc, — with pangs of shame personally un- 
deserved, and therefore felt as wrongs, and with a blind 
ferment of vindictive working towards the occasions 
and causes, especially towards a brother, whose stainless 
birth and lawful honours were the constant remembrancers 
of his own debasement, and were ever in the way to prevent 
all chance of its being unknown, or overlooked and for- 
gotten. Add to this, that with excellent judgment, and 
provident for the claims of the moral sense, — for that 
which, relatively to the drama, is called poetic justice, and 
as the fittest means for reconciling the feelings of the 
spectators to the horrors of Gloster's after sufferings, — 
at least, of rendering them somewhat less unendurable ; — 
(for I will not disguise my conviction, that in this one 
point the tragic in this play has been urged beyond the 
outermost mark and ne plus ultra of the dramatic) — Shak- 
speare has precluded all excuse and palliation of the guilt 
incurred by both the parents of the base-born Edmund, by 
Gloster's confession that he was at the time a married man, 
and already blest with a lawful heir of his fortunes. The 
mournful alienation of brotherly love, occasioned by the 
law of primogeniture in noble families, or rather by the 
unnecessary distinctions engrafted thereon, and this in 
children of the same stock, is still almost proverbial on 
the continent, — especially, as I know from my own observa- 
tion, in the south of Europe, — and appears to have been 
scarcely less common in our own island before the Revolu- 
tion of 1688, if we may judge from the characters and 
sentiments so frequent in our elder comedies. There is 
the younger brother, for instance, in Beaumont and 
Fletcher's play of the Scornful Lady, on the one side, and 
Oliver in Shakspeare's As You Like It, on the other. 
Need it be said how heavy an aggravation, in such a case, 
the stain of bastardy must have been, were it only that 
the younger brother was liable to hear his own dishonour 
and his mother's infamy related by his father with an 
excusing shrug of the shoulders, and in a tone betwixt 
waggery and shame ! 

Notes on Lear 129 

By the circumstances here enumerated as so many pre- 
disposing causes, Edmund's character might well be 
deemed already sufficiently explained ; and our minds 
prepared for it. But in this tragedy the story or fable 
constrained Shakspeare to introduce wickedness in an 
outrageous form in the persons of Regan and Goneril. 
He had read nature too heedfully not to know, that courage, 
intellect, and strength of character are the most impressive 
forms of power, and that to power in itself, without re- 
ference to any moral end, an inevitable admiration and 
complacency appertains, whether it be displayed in the 
conquests of a Buonaparte or Tamerlane, or in the foam and 
the thunder of a cataract. But in the exhibition of such a 
character it was of the highest importance to prevent the 
guilt from passing into utter monstrosity, — which again 
depends on the presence or absence of causes and tempta- 
tions sufficient to account for the wickedness, without the 
necessity of recurring to a thorough fiendishness of nature 
for its origination. For such are the appointed relations of 
intellectual power to truth, and of truth to goodness, that 
it becomes both morally and poetically unsafe to present 
what is admirable, — what our nature compels us to admire 
— in the mind, and what is most detestable in the heart, as 
co-existing in the same individual without any apparent 
connection, or any modification of the one by the other. 
That Shakspeare has in one instance, that of lago, 
approached to this, and that he has done it successfully, is, 
perhaps, the most astonishing proof of his genius, and 
the opulence of its resources. But in the present tragedy, 
in which he was compelled to present a Goneril and a 
Regan, it was most carefully to be avoided ; — and there- 
fore the only one conceivable addition to the inauspicious 
influences on the pre-formation of Edmund's character is 
given, in the information that all the kindly counteractions 
to the mischievous feelings of shame, which might have 
been derived from co-domestication with Edgar and their 
common father, had been cut off by his absence from home, 
and foreign education from boyhood to the present time, 
and a prospect of its continuance, as if to preclude all risk 
of his interference with the father's views for the elder and 
legitimate son : — 

He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. 

130 Notes on Lear 

Act i. sc. I. 

Cor. Nothing, my lord. 
Lear. Nothing ? 

Cor. Nothing. 
Lear. Nothing can come of nothing : speak again. 
Cor. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave 

My heart into my mouth : I love your majesty 
According to my bond ; nor more, nor less. 

There is something of disgust at the ruthless hypocrisy 
of her sisters, and some Httle faulty admixture of pride and 
sullenness in Cordelia's 'Nothing;' and her tone is well 
contrived, indeed, to lessen the glaring absurdity of Lear's 
conduct, but answers the yet more important purpose of 
forcing away the attention from the nursery-tale, the 
moment it has served its end, that of supplying the canvass 
for the picture. This is also materially furthered by Kent's 
opposition, which displays Lear's moral incapability of 
resigning the sovereign power in the very act of disposing 
of it. Kent is, perhaps, the nearest to perfect goodness 
in all Shakspeare's characters, and yet the most in- 
dividualized. There is an extraordinary charm in his 
bluntness, which is that only of a nobleman arising from 
a contempt of overstrained courtesy, and combined with 
easy placability where goodness of heart is apparent. 
His passionate affection for, and fidelity to, Lear act on 
our feelings in Lear's own favour : virtue itself seems 
to be in company with him. 

lb. sc. 2. Edmund's speech : — 

Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take 
More composition and fierce quality 
Than doth, &c. 

Warburton's note upon a quotation from Vanini. 

Poor Vanini ! — Any one but Warburton would have 
thought this precious passage more characteristic of Mr. 
Shandy than of atheism. If the fact really were so, 
{which it is not, but almost the contrary,) I do not see why 
the most confirmed theist might not very naturally utter 
the same wish. But it is proverbial that the youngest son 
in a lai'ge family is commonly the man of the greatest 
talents in it ; and as good an authority as Vanini has said 
— incalescere in vetierem ardeniius, spei sobolis injuriosum 

Notes on Lear 131 

In this speech of Edmund you see, as soon as a man 
cannot reconcile himself to reason, how his conscience flies 
off by way of appeal to nature, who is sure upon such 
occasions never to find fault, and also how shame sharpens 
a predisposition in the heart to evil. For it is a profound 
moral, that shame will naturally generate guilt ; the 
oppressed will be vindictive, like Shylock, and in the 
anguish of undeserved ignominy the delusion secretly 
springs up, of getting over the moral quality of an action 
by fixing the mind on the mere physical act alone. 

lb. Edmund's speech : — 

This is the excellent foppery of the world ! that, when we are 
sick in fortune, (often the surfeit of our own behaviour,) we make 
guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars, &c. 

Thus scorn and misanthropy are often the anticipations 
and mouth-pieces of wisdom in the detection of super- 
stitions. Both individuals and nations may be free from 
such prejudices by being below them, as well as by rising 
above them. 

lb. sc. 3. The Steward should be placed in exact 
antithesis to Kent, as the only character of utter irredeem- 
able baseness in Shakspeare. Even in this the judgment 
and invention of the poet are very observable ; — for what 
else could the willing tool of a Goneril be ? Not a vice but 
this of baseness was left open to him. 

lb. sc. 4. In Lear old age is itself a character, — its 
natural imperfections being increased by life-long habits 
of receiving a prompt obedience. Any addition of in- 
dividuality would have been unnecessary and painful ; 
for the relations of others to him, of wondrous fidelity and 
of frightful ingratitude, alone sufficiently distinguish him. 
Thus Lear becomes the open and ample play-room of 
nature's passions. 


Knight. Since my young lady's going into France, Sir ; the 
fool hath much pin'd away. 

The Fool is no comic buffoon to make the groundlings 
laugh, — no forced condescension of Shakspeare's genius to 
the taste of his audience. Accordingly the poet prepares 
for his introduction, which he never does with any of his 
common clowns and fools, by bringing him into living con- 
nection with the pathos of the play. He is as wonderful 

132 Notes on Lear 

a creation as Caliban ; — his wild babblings, and inspired 
idiocy, articulate and gauge the horrors of the scene. 

The monster Goneril prepares what is necessary, while the 
character of Albany renders a still more maddening 
grievance possible, namely, Regan and Cornwall in perfect 
sympathy of monstrosity. Not a sentiment, not an image, 
which can give pleasure on its own account, is admitted ; 
whenever these creatures are introduced, and they are 
brought forward as little as possible, pure horror reigns 
throughout. In this scene and in all the early speeches of 
Lear, the one general sentiment of filial ingratitude pre- 
vails as the main spring of the feelings ; — in this early 
stage the outward object causing the pressure on the mind, 
which is not yet sufficiently familiarized with the anguish 
£or the imagination to work upon it. 


Gon. Do you mark that, my lord ? 

^. Alb. I cannot be so partial, Goneril, 

To the great love I bear you. 
Gon. Pray you content, &c. 

Observe the baffled endeavour of Goneril to act on the 
fears of Albany, and yet his passiveness, his inertia ; he is 
not convinced, and yet he is afraid of looking into the thing. 
Such characters always yield to those who will take the 
trouble of governing them, or for them. Perhaps, the 
influence of a princess, whose choice of him had royalized 
his state, may be some little excuse for Albany's weakness, 

lb. sc. 5. 

Lear. O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven ! 
Keep me in temper ! I would not be mad ! — 

The mind's own anticipation of madness ! The deepest 
tragic notes are often struck by a half sense of an impend- 
ing blow. The Fool's conclusion of this act by a grotesque 
prattling seems to indicate the dislocation of feeling that 
has begun and is to be continued. 

Act ii. sc. I. Edmund's speech : — 

He replied, 
Thou unpossessing bastard ! &c. 

Thus the secret poison in Edmund's own heart steals 
forth ; and then observe poor Gloster's — 

Loyal and natural boy ! 

as if praising the crime of Edmund's birth ! 

Notes on Lear 133 

lb. Compare Regan's — 

What, did my father's godson seek your life ? 
He whom my father named ? 

with the unfeminine violence of her — 

All vengeance comes too short, &c. 

and yet no reference to the guilt, but only to the accident, 
which she uses as an occasion for sneering at her father. 
Regan is not, in fact, a greater monster than Goneril, but 
she has the power of casting more venom, 
lb. sc. 2. Cornwall's speech : — 

This is some fellow, 
Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect 
A saucy roughness, &c. 

In thus placing these profound general truths in the 
mouths of such men as Cornwall, Edmund, lago, &c. 
Shakspeare at once gives them utterance, and yet shows 
how indefinite their application is. 

lb. sc. 3. Edgar's assumed madness serves the great 
purpose of taking off part of the shock which would other- 
wise be caused by the true madness of Lear, and further 
displays the profound difference between the two. In 
every attempt at representing madness throughout the 
whole range of dramatic literature, with the single excep- 
tion of Lear, it is mere lightheadedness, as especially in 
Otway. In Edgar's ravings Shakspeare all the while lets 
you see a fixed purpose, a practical end in view ; — in Lear's, 
there is only the brooding of the one anguish, an eddy 
without progression. 

lb. sc. 4. Lear's speech : — 

The king would speak with Cornwall ; the dear father 
Would with his daughter speak, &c. 

« * « * 

No, but not yet : may be he is not well, &c. 

The strong interest now felt by Lear to try to find 
excuses for his daughter is most pathetic, 
lb. Lear's speech : — 

Beloved Regan. 

Thy sister's naught ; — O Regan, she hath tied 
Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here. 
I can scarce speak to thee ; — thou'lt not beUeve 
With how deprav'd a quality — O Regan ! 

134 Notes on Lear 

Reg. I pray you. Sir, take patience ; I have hope. 
You less know how to value her desert, 
Than she to scant her duty. 

Lear. Say, how is that ? 

Nothing is so heart-cutting as a cold unexpected defence 
or palliation of a cruelty passionately complained of, or so 
expressive of thorough hard-heartedness. And feel the 
excessive horror of Regan's *0, Sir, you are old!' — and 
then her drawing from that universal object of reverence 
and indulgence the very reason for her frightful con- 
clusion — 

Say, you have wrong'd her I 

All Lear's faults increase our pity for him. We refuse to 
know them otherwise than as means of his sufferings, and 
aggravations of his daughter's ingratitude. 
lb. Lear's speech : — 

O, reason not the need : our basest beggars 
Are in the poorest thing superfluous, &c. 

Observe that the tranquillity which follows the first 
stunning of the blow permits Lear to reason. 

Act iii. sc. 4. O, what a world's convention of agonies 
is here ! All external nature in a storm, all moral nature 
convulsed, — the real madness of Lear, the feigned madness 
of Edgar, the babbling of the Fool, the desperate fidelity of 
Kent — surely such a scene was never conceived before or 
since ! Take it but cLS a picture for the eye only, it is more 
terrific than any which a Michel Angelo, inspired by a 
Dante, could have conceived, and which none but a Michel 
Angelo could have executed. Or let it have been uttered 
to the blind, the bowlings of nature would seem converted 
into the voice of conscious humanity. This scene ends 
with the first symptoms of positive derangement ; and 
the intervention of the fifth scene is particularly judicious, 
— the interruption allowing an interval for Lear to appear 
in full madness in the sixth scene. 

lb. sc. 7. Gloster's blinding : — 

What can I say of this scene ? — There is my reluctance to 
think Shakspeare wrong, and yet — 

Act iv. sc. 6. Lear's speech : — 

Ha I Goneril 1 — with a white beard ! — They flattered me like a 
dog ; and told me, I had white hairs in my beard, ere the black 

Notes on Hamlet 135 

ones were there. To say Ay and No to every thing that I said ! 
— Ay and No too was no good divinity. When the rain came to 
wet me once, &c. 

The thunder recurs, but still at a greater distance from 
our feelings. 

lb. sc. 7. Lear's speech : — 

Where have I been ? Where am I ? — Fair daylight ? — 
I am mightily abused. — I should even die with pity 
To see another thus, &c. 

How beautifully the affecting return of Lear to reason, 
and the mild pathos of these speeches prepare the mind for 
the last sad, yet sweet, consolation of the aged sufferer's 
death I 


Hamlet was the play, or rather Hamlet himself was the 
character, in the intuition and exposition of which I first 
made my turn for philosophical criticism, and especially 
for insight into the genius of Shakspeare, noticed. This 
happened first amongst my acquaintances, as Sir George 
Beaumont will bear witness ; and subsequently, long 
before Schlegel had delivered at Vienna the lectures on 
Shakspeare, which he afterwards published, I had given on 
the same subject eighteen lectures substantially the same, 
proceeding from the very same point of view, and deducing 
the same conclusions, so far as I either then agreed, or now 
agree, with him. I gave these lectures at the Royal 
Institution, before six or seven hundred auditors of rank 
and eminence, in the spring of the same year, in which Sir 
Humphrey Davy, a fellow-lecturer, made his great re- 
volutionary discoveries in chemistry. Even in detail the 
coincidence of Schlegel with my lectures was so extra- 
ordinary, that all who at a later period heard the same 
words, taken by me from my notes of the lectures at the 
Royal Institution, concluded a borrowing on my part from 
Schlegel. Mr. Hazlitt, whose hatred of me is in such an 
inverse ratio to my zealous kindness towards him, as to be 
defended by his warmest admirer, Charles Lamb — (who, 
God bless him ! besides his characteristic obstinacy of 
adherence to old friends, as long at least as they are at all 

136 Notes on Hamlet 

down in the world, is linked as by a charm to Hazlitt's con- 
versation) — only as 'frantic' ; — Mr. Hazlitt, I say, himself 
repHed to an assertion of my plagiarism from Schlegel in 
these words ; — " That is a lie ; for I myself heard the very 
same character of Hamlet from Coleridge before he went 
to Germany, and when he had neither read nor could read a 
page of German ! " Now Hazlitt was on a visit to me at 
my cottage at Nether Stowey, Somerset, in the summer of 
the year 1798, in the September of which year I first was 
out of sight of the shores of Great Britain. Recorded by 
me, S. T. Coleridge, 7th January, 1819. 

The seeming inconsistencies in the conduct and character 
of Hamlet have long exercised the conjectural ingenuity of 
critics ; and, as we are always loth to suppose that "the 
cause of defective apprehension is in ourselves, the mystery 
has been too commonly explained by the very easy pro- 
cess of setting it down as in fact inexplicable, and by 
resolving the phenomenon into a misgrowth or lusus of the 
capricious and irregular genius of Shakspeare. The shallow 
and stupid arrogance of these vulgar and indolent de- 
cisions I would fain do my best to expose. I beUeve the 
character of Hamlet may be traced to Shakspeare' s deep 
and accurate science in mental philosophy. Indeed, that 
this character must have some connection with the common 
fundamental laws of our nature may be assumed from the 
fact, that Hamlet has been the darling of every country in 
which the literature of England has been fostered. In order 
to understand him, it is essential that we should reflect on 
the constitution of our own minds. Man is distinguished 
from the brute animals in proportion as thought prevails 
over sense : but in the healthy processes of the mind, a 
balance is constantly maintained between the impressions 
from outward objects and the inward operations of the 
intellect ; — for if there be an overbalance in the contem- 
plative faculty, man thereby becomes the creature of 
mere meditation, and loses his natural power of action. 
Now one of Shakspeare' s modes of creating characters is, 
to conceive any one intellectual or moral faculty in morbid 
excess, and then to place himself, Shakspeare, thus muti- 
lated or diseased, under given circumstances. In Hamlet 
he seems to have wished to exemplify the moral necessity 
of a due balance between our attention to the objects of 
our senses, and our meditation on the workings of our 

Notes on Hamlet 137 

minds, — an equilibrium between the real and the imaginary 
worlds. In Hamlet this balance is disturbed : his thoughts, 
and the images of his fancy, are far more vivid than his 
actual perceptions, and his very perceptions, instantly 
passing through the medium of his contemplations, acquire, 
as they pass, a form and a colour not naturally their own. 
Hence we see a great, an almost enormous, intellectual 
activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action, 
consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accom- 
panying qualities. This character Shakspeare places 
in circumstances, under which it is obliged to act on the 
spur of the moment : — Hamlet is brave and careless of 
death ; but he vacillates from sensibihty, and procrasti- 
nates from thought, and loses the power of action in the 
energy of resolve. Thus it is that this tragedy presents a 
direct contrast to that of Macbeth ; the one proceeds with 
the utmost slowness, the other with a crowded and breath- 
less rapidity. 

The effect of this overbalance of the imaginative power is 
beautifully illustrated in the everlasting broodings and 
superfluous activities of Hamlet's mind, which, unseated 
from its healthy relation, is constantly occupied with the 
world within, and abstracted from the world without, — 
giving substance to shadows, and throwing a mist over all 
common-place actualities. It is the nature of thought to be 
indefinite ; — definiteness belongs to external imagery alone. 
Hence it is that the sense of sublimity arises, not from the 
sight of an outward object, but from the beholder's re- 
flection upon it ; — not from the sensuous impression, 
but from the imaginative reflex. Few have seen a 
celebrated waterfall without feeling something akin to 
disappointment : it is only subsequently that the image 
comes back full into the mind, and brings with it a train 
of grand or beautiful associations. Hamlet feels this ; 
his senses are in a state of trance, and he looks upon ex- 
ternal things as hieroglyphics. His solfloquy — 

O ! that this too too solid flesh would melt, &c. 

springs from that craving after the indefinite — for that 
which is not — which most easily besets men of genius ; 
and the self-delusion common to this temper of mind is 
finely exemplified in the character which Hamlet gives 
of himself : — 

138 Notes on Hamlet 

— It cannot be 
But I am pigeon-livered, and lack gall 
To make oppression bitter. 

He mistakes the seeing his chains for the breaking them, 
delays action till action is of no use, and dies the victim 
of mere circumstance and accident. 

There is a great significancy in the names of Shakspeare's 
plays. In the Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night's Dream, 
As You Like It, and Winter's Tale, the total effect is 
produced by a co-ordination of the characters as in a 
\\Teath of flowers. But in Coriolanus, Lear, Romeo and 
Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, &c. the effect arises from the 
subordination of all to one, either as the prominent person, 
or the principal object. Cymbeline is the only exception ; 
and even that has its advantages in preparing the audience 
for the chaos of time, place, and costume, by throwing the 
date back into a fabulous king's reign. 

But as of more importance, so more striking, is the 
judgment displayed by our truly dramatic poet, as well 
as poet of the drama, in the management of his first scenes. 
With the single exception of Cymbeline, they either place 
before us at one glance both the past and the future in 
some effect, which implies the continuance and fuU agency 
of its cause, as in the feuds and party-spirit of the servants 
of the two houses in the first scene of Romeo and Juliet; 
or in the degrading passion for shews and public spectacles, 
and the overwhelming attachment for the newest success- 
ful war-chief in the Roman people, already become a 
populace, contrasted with the jealousy of the nobles in 
Julius Caesar ; — or they at once commence the action so 
as to excite a curiosity for the explanation in the following 
scenes, as in the storm of wind and waves, and the boat- 
swain in the Tempest, instead of anticipating our curiosity, 
as in most other first scenes, and in too many other first 
acts ; — or they act, by contrast of diction suited to the 
characters, at once to heighten the effect, and yet to give 
a naturalness to the language and rhythm of the principal 
personages, either as that of Prospero and Miranda by the 
appropriate lowness of the style, — or as in King John, by 
the equally appropriate stateliness of official harangues 
or narratives, so that the after blank verse seems to belong 
to the rank and quality of the speakers, and not to the 
poet ; — or they strike at once the key-note, and give the 

Notes on Hamlet 139 

predominant spirit of the play, as in the Twelfth Night and 
in Macbeth ; — or finally, the first scene comprises all these 
advantages at once, as in Hamlet. 

Compare the easy language of common life, in which 
this drama commences, with the direful music and wild 
wayward rhythm and abrupt lyrics of the opening of 
Macbeth. The tone is quite familiar ; — there is no poetic 
description of night, no elaborate information conveyed 
by one speaker to another of what both had immediately 
before their senses — (such as the first distich in Addison's 
Cato, which is a translation into poetry of 'Past four 
o'clock and a dark morning !') ; — and yet nothing border- 
ing on the comic on the one hand, nor any striving of the 
intellect on the other. It is precisely the language of 
sensation among men who feared no charge of effeminacy 
for feeling what they had no want of resolution to bear. 
Yet the armour, the dead silence, the watchfulness that 
first interrupts it, the welcome relief of the guard, the cold, 
the broken expressions of compelled attention to bodily 
feehngs still under control — all excellently accord with, 
and prepare for, the after gradual rise into tragedy ; — 
but, above all, into a tragedy, the interest of which is as 
eminently ad et apud intra, as that of Macbeth is directly 
ad extra. 

In all the best attested stories of ghosts and visions, 
as in that of Brutus, of Archbishop Cranmer, that of 
Benvenuto Cellini recorded by himself, and the vision of 
Galileo communicated by him to his favourite pupil 
Torricelli, the ghost-seers were in a state of cold or chilling 
damp from without, and of anxiety inwardly. It has 
been with all of them as with Francisco on his guard, — 
alone, in the depth and silence of the night ; — "twas 
bitter cold, and they were sick at heart, and not a mouse 
stirring.' The attention to minute sounds, — naturally 
associated with the recollection of minute objects, and 
the more familiar and trifling, the more impressive from 
the unusualness of their producing any impression at all 
— gives a philosophic pertinency to this last image ; but 
it has hkewise its dramatic use and purpose. For its 
commonness in ordinary conversation tends to produce 
the sense of reality, and at once hides the poet, and yet 
approximates the reader or spectator to that state in 
which the highest poetry will appear, and in its component 

140 Notes on Hamlet 

parts, though not in the whole composition, really is, the 
language of nature. If I should not speak it, I feel that 
I should be thinking it ; — the voice only is the poet's, — 
the words are my own. That Shakspeare meant to put 
an effect in the actor's power in the very first words — 
" Who's there ? " — is evident fromt he impatience ex- 
pressed by the startled Francisco in the words that follow 
— " Nay, answer me : stand and unfold yourself." A brave 
man is never so peremptory, as when he fears that he is 
afraid. Observe the gradual transition from the silence 
and the still recent habit of listening in Francisco's — " I 
think I hear them " — to the more cheerful call out, which 
a good actor would observe, in the — " Stand ho ! Who is 
there ? " Bernardo's inquiry after Horatio, and the 
repetition of his name and in his own presence indicate a 
respect or an eagerness that implies him as one of the 
persons who are in the foreground ; and the scepticism 
attributed to him, — 

Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy ; 

And will not let belief take hold of him — 

prepares us for Hamlet's after eoilogy on him as one whose 
blood and judgment were happily commingled. The 
actor should also be careful to distinguish the expectation 
and gladness of Bernardo's 'Welcome, Horatio !' from 
the mere courtesy of his 'Welcome, good Marcellus !* 

Now observe the admirable indefiniteness of the first 
opening out of the occasion of all this anxiety. The 
preparation informative of the audience is just as much as 
was precisely necessary, and no more ; — it begins with the 
uncertainty appertaining to a question : — 

Mar. What, has this thing appear'd again to-night ? — 

Even the word 'again' has its credihilizing effect. Then 
Horatio, the representative of the ignorance of the 
audience, not himself, but by Marcellus to Bernardo, 
anticipates the common solution — "tis but our fantasy !' 
upon which Marcellus rises into 

This dreaded sight, twice seen of us — 

which immediately afterwards becomes 'this apparition,* 
and that, too, an intelligent spirit, that is, to be spoken to ! 
Then comes the confirmation of Horatio's disbelief ; — 

Tush ! tush ! 'twill not appear ! — 

Notes on Hamlet 141 

and the silence, with which the scene opened, is again 
restored in the shivering feeUng of Horatio sitting down, 
at such a time, and with the two eye-witnesses, to hear a 
story of a ghost, and that, too, of a ghost which had 
appeared twice before at the very same hour. In the 
deep feeUng which Bernardo has of the solemn nature of 
what he is about to relate, he makes an effort to master his 
own imaginative terrors by an elevation of style, — itself 
a continuation of the effort, — and by turning off from the 
apparition, as from something which would force him too 
deeply into himself, to the outward objects, the realities 
of nature, which had accompanied it : — 

Ber. Last night of all. 
When yon same star, that's westward from the pole 
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven 
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself. 
The bell then beating one — 

This passage seems to contradict the critical law that 
what is told, makes a faint impression compared with 
what is beholden ; for it does indeed convey to the mind 
more than the eye can see ; whilst the interruption of the 
narrative at the very moment when we are most intensely 
listening for the sequel, and have our thoughts diverted 
from the dreaded sight in expectation of the desired, yet 
almost dreaded, tale — this gives all the suddenness and 
surprise of the original appearance ; — 

Mar. Peace, break thee oflE ; look, where it comes again ! — 

Note the judgment displayed in having the two persons 
present, who, as having seen the Ghost before, are naturally 
eager in confirming their former opinions, — whilst the 
sceptic is silent, and after having been twice addressed by 
his friends, answers with two hasty syllables — 'Most like,' 
— and a confession of horror : 

— It harrows me with fear and wonder. 

O heaven ! words are wasted on those who feel, and to 
those who do not feel the exquisite judgment of Shak- 
speare in this scene, what can be said ? — Hume himself 
could not but have had faith in this Ghost dramatically, 
let his anti-ghostism have been as strong as Sampson 
against other ghosts less powerfully raised. 

142 Notes on Hamlet 

Act i. sc. I. 

Mar, Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows, 
Why this same strict and most observant watch, &c. 

How delightfully natural is the transition to the retro- 
spective narrative ! And observe, upon the Ghost's re- 
appearance, how much Horatio's courage is increased by 
having translated the late individual spectator into general 
thought and past experience, — and the sympathy of 
Marcellus and Bernardo with his patriotic surmises in 
daring to strike at the Ghost ; whilst in a moment, upon 
its vanishing the former solemn awe-stricken feeling 
returns upon them : — 

We do it wrong, being so majestical. 
To offer it the show of violence. — 

lb. Horatio's speech : — 

I have heard, 
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn. 
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat 
Awake the god of day, &c. 

No Addison could be more careful to be poetical in diction 
than Shakspeare in providing the grounds and sources of 
its propriety. But how to elevate a thing almost mean 
by its familiarity, young poets may learn in this treatment 
of the cock-crow. 

lb. Horatio's speech : — 

And, by my advice. 
Let us impart what we have seen to-night 
Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life. 
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him. 

Note the inobtrusive and yet fully adequate mode of 
introducing the main character, 'young Hamlet,' upon 
whom is transferred all the interest excited for the acts 
and concerns of the king his father. 

lb. sc. 2. The audience are now relieved by a change 
of scene to the royal court, in order that Hamlet may not 
have to take up the leavings of exhaustion. In the king's 
speech, observe the set and pedantically antithetic form 
of the sentences when touching that which galled the heels 
of conscience, — the strain of undignified rhetoric, — and 
yet in what follows concerning the public weal, a certain 
appropriate majesty. Indeed was he not a royal brother ? — 

Notes on Hamlet 143 

lb. King's speech : — 

And now, Laertes, what's the news with you ? &c. 
Thus with great art Shakspeare introduces a most impor- 
tant, but still subordinate character first, Laertes, who is 
yet thus graciously treated in consequence of the assistance 
given to the election of the late king's brother instead of 
his son by Polonius. 


Ham. A little more than kin, and less than kind. 
King. How is it that the clouds still hang on you ? 
Ham. Not so, my lord, I am too much i' the sun. 

Hamlet opens his mouth with a playing on words, the 
complete absence of which throughout characterizes 
Macbeth. This playing on words may be attributed to 
many causes or motives, as either to an exuberant activity 
of mind, as in the higher comedy of Shakspeare generally ; 
— or to an imitation of it as a mere fashion, as if it were 
said — Ts not this better than groaning ?' — or to a con- 
temptuous exultation in minds vulgarized and overset by 
their success, as in the poetic instance of Milton's Devils 
in the battle ; — or it is the language of resentment, as is 
familiar to every one who has witnessed the quarrels of the 
lower orders, where there is invariably a profusion of 
punning invective, whence, perhaps, nicknames have in a 
considerable degree sprung up ; — or it is the language of 
suppressed passion, and especially of a hardly smothered 
personal dislike. The first and last of these combine in 
Hamlet's case ; and I have little doubt that Farmer is 
right in supposing the equivocation carried on in the 
expression 'too much i' the sun,' or son. 


Ham. Ay, madam, it is common. 

Here observe Hamlet's deUcacy to his mother, and how 
the suppression prepares him for the overflow in the next 
speech, in which his character is more developed by bring- 
ing forward his aversion to externals, and which betrays 
his habit of brooding over the world within him, coupled 
with a prodigality of beautiful words, which are the half 
embodyings of thought, and are more than thought, and 
have an outness, a reality sui generis, and yet retain their 
correspondence and shadowy affinity to the images and 
movements within. Note also Hamlet's silence to the 

144 Notes on Hamlet 

long speech of the king which follows, and his respectful, 
but general, answer to his mother. 
lb. Hamlet's first soliloquy : — 

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, 
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew ! &c. 

This tcBdium vUcb is a common oppression on minds cast 
in the Hamlet mould, and is caused by disproportionate 
mental exertion, which necessitates exhaustion of bodily 
feeling. Where there is a just coincidence of external and 
internal action, pleasure is always the result ; but where 
the former is deficient, and the mind's appetency of the 
ideal is unchecked, realities will seem cold and unmoving. 
In such cases, passion combines itself with the indefinite 
alone. In this mood of his mind the relation of the 
appearance of his father's spirit in arms is made all at once 
to Hamlet : — it is — Horatio's speech, in particular — a 
perfect model of the true style of dramatic narrative ; — 
the purest poetry, and yet in the most natural language, 
equally remote from the ink-horn and the plough. 

lb. sc. 3. This scene must be regarded as one of Shak- 
speare's lyric movements in the play, and the skiU with 
which it is interwoven with the dramatic parts is peculiarly 
an excellence of our poet. You experience the sensation 
of a pause without the sense of a stop. You will observe 
in OpheUa's short and general answer to the long speech 
of Laertes the natural carelessness of innocence, which 
cannot think such a code of cautions and prudences 
necessary to its own preservation. 

lb. Speech of Polonius : — (in Stockdale's edition.) 

Or (not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,) 
Wronging it thus, you'll tender me a fool. 

I suspect this 'wronging' is here used much in the same 
sense as 'wringing' or 'wrenching' ; and that the paren- 
thesis should be extended to 'thus.' ^ 
lb. Speech of Polonius : — 

How prodigal the soul 

Lends the tongue vows : — these blazes, daughter, &c. 

A spondee has, I doubt not, dropped out of the text. 
Either insert 'Go to' after 'vows ' ; — 

1 It is so pointed in the modern editions. — Ed. 

Notes on Hamlet 145 

Lends the tongue vows : Go to, these blazes, daughter — 
or read 

Lends the tongue vows : — These blazes, daughter, mark you — 

Shakspeare never introduces a catalectic line without 
intending an equivalent to the foot omitted in the pauses, 
or the dwelling emphasis, or the diffused retardation. I 
do not, however, deny that a good actor might by employ- 
ing the last mentioned means, namely, the retardation, or 
solemn knowing drawl, supply the missing spondee with 
good effect. But I do not believe that in this or any other 
of the foregoing speeches of Polonius, Shakspeare meant 
to bring out the senility or weakness of that personage's 
mind. In the great ever-recurring dangers and duties 
of life, where to distinguish the fit objects for the applica- 
tion of the maxims collected by the experience of a long 
life, requires no fineness of tact, as in the admonitions to 
his son and daughter, Polonius is uniformly made respect- 
able. But if an actor were even capable of catching these 
shades in the character, the pit and the gallery would be 
malcontent at their exhibition. It is to Hamlet that 
Polonius is, and is meant to be, contemptible, because in 
inwardness and uncontrollable activity of movement, 
Hamlet's mind is the logical contrary to that of Polonius, 
and besides, as I have observed before, Hamlet dislikes 
the man as false to his true allegiance in the matter of the 
succession to the crown. 

lb. sc. 4. The unimportant conversation with which 
this scene opens is a proof of Shakspeare's minute know- 
ledge of human nature. It is a well established fact, that 
on the brink of any serious enterprise, or event of moment, 
men almost invariably endeavour to elude the pressure of 
their own thoughts by turning aside to trivial objects and 
familiar circumstances : thus this dialogue on the platform 
begins with remarks on the coldness of the air, and inquiries, 
obliquely connected, indeed, with the expected hour of 
the visitation, but thrown out in a seeming vacuity of 
topics, as to the striking of the clock and so forth. The 
same desire to escape from the impending thought is carried 
on in Hamlet's account of, and moralizing on, the Danish 
custom of wassailing : he runs off from the particular to the 
universal, and, in his repugnance to personal and individual 
concerns, escapes, as it were, from himself in generaliza- 

146 Notes on Hamlet 

tions, and smothers the impatience and uneasy feelings 
of the moment in abstract reasoning. Besides this, an- 
other purpose is answered ; — for by thus entangling the 
attention of the audience in the nice distinctions and 
parenthetical sentences of this speech of Hamlet's, Shak- 
speare takes them completely by surprise on the appearance 
of the Ghost, which comes upon them in all the sudden- 
ness of its visionary character. Indeed, no modem writer 
would have dared, like Shakspeare, to have preceded this 
last visitation by two distinct appearances, — or could have 
contrived that the third should rise upon the former two 
in impressiveness and solemnity of interest. 

But in addition to all the other excellences of Hamlet's 
speech concerning the wassel-music — so finely revealing 
the predominant ideahsm, the ratiocinative meditativeness, 
of his character — it has the advantage of giving nature 
and probability to the impassioned continuity of the speech 
instantly directed to the Ghost. The momentum had been 
given to his mental activity ; the full current of the 
thoughts and words had set in, and the very forgetfulness, 
in the fervour of his argumentation, of the purpose for 
which he was there, aided in preventing the appearance 
from benumbing the mind. Consequently, it acted as a 
new impulse, — a sudden stroke which increased the velocity 
of the body already in motion, whilst it altered the direc- 
tion. The co-presence of Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo 
is most judiciously contrived ; for it renders the courage 
of Hamlet and his impetuous eloquence perfectly intel- 
ligible. The knowledge, — the unthought of consciousness, 
— the sensation, — of human auditors, — of flesh and blood 
sympathists — acts as a support and a stimulation a tergo, 
while the front of the mind, the whole consciousness of 
the speaker, is filled, yea, absorbed, by the apparition. 
Add too, that the apparition itself has by its previous 
appearances been brought nearer to a thing of this world. 
This accrescence of objectivity in a Ghost that yet retains 
all its ghostly attributes and fearful subjectivity, is truly 

lb. sc. 5. Hamlet's speech : — 

O all 3'^ou host of heaven ! O earth ! What else ? 
And shall I couple hell ? — 

1 remember nothing equal to this burst unless it be the 

Notes on Hamlet 147 

first speech of Prometheus in the Greek drama, after the 
exit of Vulcan and the two Afrites. But Shakspeare alone 
could have produced the vow of Hamlet to make his 
memory a blank of all maxims and generalized truths, 
that 'observation had copied there,* — followed immediately 
by the speaker noting down the generalized fact, 

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain I 


Mar. Hillo, ho, ho, my lord I 

Ham. Hillo, ho, ho, boy ! come bird, come, &c. 

This part of the scene after Hamlet's interview with the 
Ghost has been charged with an improbable eccentricity. 
But the truth is, that after the mind has been stretched 
beyond its usual pitch and tone, it must either sink into 
exhaustion and inanity, or seek rehef by change. It is 
thus well known, that persons conversant in deeds of 
cruelty contrive to escape from conscience by connecting 
something of the ludicrous with them, and by inventing 
grotesque terms and a certain technical phraseology to 
disguise the horror of their practices. Indeed, paradoxical 
as it may appear, the terrible by a law of the human mind 
always touches on the verge of the ludicrous. Both arise 
from the perception of something out of the common order 
of things — something, in fact, out of its place ; and if from 
this we can abstract danger, the uncommonness wiU alone 
remain, and the sense of the ridiculous be excited. The 
close aUiance of these opposites — they are not contraries — 
appears from the circumstance, that laughter is equally 
the expression of extreme anguish and horror as of joy : 
as there are tears of sorrow and tears of joy, so is there a 
laugh of terror and a laugh of merriment. These complex 
causes will naturally have produced in Hamlet the dis- 
position to escape from his own feelings of the overwhelm- 
ing and supernatural by a wild transition to the ludicrous, 
— a sort of cunning bravado, bordering on the flights of 
delirium. For you may, perhaps, observe that Hamlet's 
wildness is but half false ; he plays that subtle trick of 
pretending to act only when he is very near really being 
what he acts. 

The subterraneous speeches of the Ghost are hardly 
defensible : — but I would call your attention to the char- 
acteristic difference between this Ghost, as a superstition 

14B Notes on Hamlet 

connected with the most mysterious truths of revealed 
religion, — and Shakspeare's consequent reverence in his 
treatment of it, — and the foul earthly witcheries and wild 
language in Macbeth. 

Act ii. sc. I. Polonius and Reynaldo. 

In all things dependent on, or rather made up of, fine 
address, the manner is no more or otherwise rememberable 
than the light motions, steps, and gestures of youth and 
health. But this is almost everything : — no wonder, there- 
fore if that which can be put down by rule in the memory 
should appear to us as mere poring, maudlin, cunning, — 
slyness blinking through the watery eye of superannuation. 
So in this admirable scene, Polonius, who is throughout the 
skeleton of his own former skill and statecraft, hunts the 
trail of policy at a dead scent, supphed by the weak fever- 
smell in his own nostrils. 

lb. sc. 2. Speech of Polonius : — 

My liege, and madam, to expostulate, &c. 

Warburton's note. 

Then as to the jingles, and play on words, let us but look into 
the sermons of Dr. Donne (the wittiest man of that age) and we 
shall find them full of this vein. 

I have, and that most carefully, read Dr. Donne's 
sermons, and find none of these jingles. The great 
art of an orator — to make whatever he talks of appear 
of importance — this, indeed, Donne has effected with 
consunamate skill. 


Ham. Excellent well ; 
You are a fishmonger. 

That is, you are sent to fish out this secret. This is 
Hamlet's own meaning. 

Ham. For if the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog, 
Being a god, kissing carrion — 

These purposely obscure lines, I rather think, refer to some 
thought in Hamlet's mind, contrasting the lovely daughter 
with such a tedious old fool, her father, as he, Hamlet, 
represents Polonius to himself : — 'Why, fool as he is, he is 
some degrees in rank above a dead dog's carcase ; and if 
the sun, being a god that kisses carrion, can raise Ufe out 

Notes on Hamlet 149 

of a dead dog, — why may not good fortune, that favours 
fools, have raised a lovely girl out of this dead-alive old 
fool ?' Warburton is often led astray, in his interpreta- 
tions, by his attention to general positions without the due 
Shakspearian reference to what is probably passing in the 
mind of his speaker, characteristic, and expository of his 
particular character and present mood. The subsequent 
passage, — 

O Jephtha, judge of Israel ! what a treasure hadst thou ! 

is confirmatory of my view of these lines, 

Ham. You cannot, Sir, take from me any thing that I will more 
willingly part withal ; except my life, except my life, except my 

This repetition strikes me as most admirable, 

Ham. Then are our beggars, bodies ; and our monarchs, and 
out-stretched heroes, the beggars' shadows. 

I do not understand this ; and Shakspeare seems to 
have intended the meaning not to be more than snatched 
at : — 'By my fay, I cannot reason !' 

The rugged Pyrrhus — he whose sable arms, &c. 

This admirable substitution of the epic for the dramatic, 
giving such a reality to the impassioned dramatic diction 
of Shakspeare' s own dialogue, and authorized too, by the 
actual style of the tragedies before his time (Porrex and 
Ferrex, Titus Andronicus, &c.) — is well worthy of notice. 
The fancy, that a burlesque was intended, sinks below 
criticism : the lines, as epic narrative, are superb. 

In the thoughts, and even in the separate parts of the 
diction, this description is highly poetical : in truth, taken 
by itself, that is its fault that it is too poetical ! — the 
language of lyric vehemence and epic pomp, and not of 
the drama. But if Shakspeare had made the diction truly 
dramatic, where would have been the contrast between 
Hamlet and the play in Hamlet ? 


had seen the mobled queen, &c. 

A mob-cap is still a word in common use for a morning 

150 Notes on Hamlet 

cap, which conceals the whole head of hair, and passes 
under the chin. It is nearly the same as the night-cap, 
that is, it is an imitation of it, so as to answer the purpose 
(*I am not drest for company'), and yet reconciling it with 
neatness and perfect purity, 
lb. Hamlet's sohloquy : 

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I ! &c. 

This is Shakspeare's own attestation to the truth of the 
idea of Hamlet which I have before put forth, 

The spirit that I have seen, 

May be a devil : and the devil hath power 

To assume a pleasing shape ; yea, and, perhaps 

Out of my weakness, and my melancholy, 

(As he is very potent with such spirits) 

Abuses me to damn me. 

See Sir Thomas Brown : 

I believe that those apparitions and ghosts of departed 

persons are not the wandering souls of men, but the unquiet walks 
of devils, prompting and suggesting us unto mischief, blood and 
vUlany, instilling and stealing into our hearts, that the blessed 
spirits are not at rest in their graves, but wander solicitous of the 
affairs of the world. Relig. Med. Pt. I. Sect. 37. 

Act iii. sc. I. Hamlet's soliloquy : 

To be, or not to be, that is the question, &c. 

This speech is of absolutely universal interest, — and yet 
to which of all Shakspeare's characters could it have been 
appropriately given but Hamlet ? For Jaques it would 
have been too deep, and for lago too habitual a communion 
with the heart ; which in every man belongs, or ought to 
belong, to all mankind. 


The undiscover'd country, from whose bourne 
No traveller returns. — 

Theobald's note in defence of the supposed contradiction 
of this in the apparition of the Ghost. 

O miserable defender ! If it be necessary to remove 
the apparent contradiction, — if it be not rather a great 
beauty, — surely, it were easy to say, that no traveller 
returns to this world, as to his home, or abiding-place. 

Notes on Hamlet 151 


Ham. Ha, ha ! axe you honest ? 
Oph. My lord ? 
Ham. Are you fair ? 

Here it is evident that the penetrating Hamlet perceives, 
from the strange and forced manner of Opheha, that the 
sweet girl was not acting a part of her own, but was a 
decoy; and his after speeches are not so much directed 
to her as to the listeners and spies. Such a discovery in 
a mood so anxious and irritable accounts for a certain 
harshness in him ; — and yet a wild up-working of love, 
sporting with opposites in a wilful self-tormenting strain 
of irony, is perceptible throughout, *I did love you once :' 
— 'I lov'd you not :' — and particularly in his enumeration 
of the faults of the sex from which Ophelia is so free, that 
the mere freedom therefrom constitutes her character. 
Note Shakspeare's charm of composing the female char- 
acter by the absence of characters, that is, marks and 

lb. Hamlet's speech : — 

I say, we will have no more marriages : those that are married 
already, all but one, shall live : the rest shall keep as they are. 

Observe this dallying with the inward purpose, char- 
acteristic of one who had not brought his mind to the 
steady acting point. He would fain sting the uncle's mind; 
— but to stab his body ! — The soliloquy of Ophelia, which 
follows, is the perfection of love — so exquisitely unselfish ! 

lb. sc. 2. This dialogue of Hamlet with the players 
is one of the happiest instances of Shakspeare's power of 
diversifying the scene while he is carrying on the plot. 


Ham. My lord, you play'd once i' the university, you say ? {To 

To have kept Hamlet's love for Ophelia before the audience 
in any direct form, would have made a breach in the unity 
of the interest ;— but yet to the thoughtful reader it is 
suggested by his spite to poor Polonius, whom he cannot 
let rest. 

lb. The style of the interlude here is distinguished from 
the real dialogue by rhyme, as in the first interview with 
the players by epic verse. 

152 Notes on Hamlet 


Ros. My lord, you once did love me. 

Ham. So I do still, by these pickers and stealers, 

I never heard an actor give this word *so' its proper 
emphasis. Shakspeare's meaning is — 'lov'd you ? Hum ! 
— so I do still, &c.' There has been no change in my 
opinion :--I think as ill of you as I did. Else Hamlet 
tells an ignoble falsehood, and a useless one, as the last 
speech to Guildenstern — 'Why, look you now,' &c. — 

lb. Hamlet's soliloquy : — 

Now could I drink hot blood, 
And do such bitter business as the day 
Would quake to look on. 

The utmost at which Hamlet arrives, is a disposition, 
a mood, to do something : — but what to do, is still left 
undecided, while every word he utters tends to betray 
his disguise. Yet observe how perfectly equal to any 
call of the moment is Hamlet, let it only not be for the 

lb. sc. 4. Speech of Polonius. Polonius's volunteer 
obtrusion of himself into this business, while it is appro- 
priate to his character, still itching after former importance, 
removes all likelihood that Hamlet should suspect his 
presence, and prevents us from making his death injure 
Hamlet in our opinion. 

lb. The king's speech : — 

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven, &c. 

This speech well marks the difference between crime 
and guilt of habit. The conscience here is still admitted 
to audience. Nay, even as an audible soliloquy, it is far 
less improbable than is supposed by such as have watched 
men only in the beaten road of their feelings. But the 
final — 'all may be well !' is remarkable ; — the degree of 
merit attributed by the self-flattering soul to its own 
struggle, though baffled, and to the indefinite half-promise, 
half-command, to persevere in religious duties. The 
solution is in the divine medium of the Christian doctrine 
of expiation : — not what you have done, but what you are, 
must determine. 

Notes on Hamlet 153 

lb. Hamlet's speech : — 

Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying : 
And now I'll do it : — And so he goes to heaven : 
And so am I revenged ? That would be scann'd, &c. 

Dr. Johnson's mistaking of the marks of reluctance and 
procrastination for impetuous, horror-striking, fiendish- 
ness ! — Of such importance is it to understand the 
germ of a character. But the interval taken by Hamlet's 
speech is truly awful ! And then — 

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below : 
Words, without thoughts, never to heaven go, — 

what a lesson concerning the essential difference 
between wishing and willing, and the folly of all motive- 
mongering, while the individual self remains ! 

lb. sc. 4. 

Ham. A bloody deed ; — almost as bad, good mother. 
As kill a king, and marry with his brother. 
Queen. As kill a king ? 

1 confess that Shakspeare has left the character of the 
Queen in an unpleasant perplexity. Was she, or was she 
not, conscious of the fratricide ? 

Act iv. sc. 2. 

Ros. Take you me for a spunge, my lord ? 

Ham. Ay, Sir ; that soaks up the King's countenance, his 
rewards, his authorities, &c. 

Hamlet's madness is made to consist in the free utter- 
ance of all the thoughts that had passed through his mind 
before ; — in fact, in telling home-truths. 

Act iv. sc. 5. Opheha's singing. O, note the conjunc- 
tion here of these two thoughts that had never subsisted 
in disjunction, the love for Hamlet, and her filial love, with 
the guileless floating on the surface of her pure imagina- 
tion of the cautions so lately expressed, and the fears not 
too delicately avowed, by her father and brother, concern- 
ing the dangers to which her honour lay exposed. Thought, 
affliction, passion, murder itself — she turns to favour and 
prettiness. This play of association is instanced in the 
close : — 

My brother shall know of it, and so I thank you for your good 

154 Notes on Hamlet 

lb. Gentleman's speech : — 

And as the world were now but to begin 
Antiquity forgot, custom not known, 
The ratifiers and props of every word — 
They cry, &c. 

Fearful and self-suspicious as I always feel, when 1 
seem to see an error of judgment in Shakspeare, yet I can- 
not reconcile the cool, and, as Warburton calls it, 'rational 
and consequential,' reflection in these lines with the anony- 
mousness, or the alarm, of this Gentleman or Messenger, 
as he is called in other editions. 

lb. King's speech : — 

There's such divinity doth hedge a king, 
That treason can but peep to what it would, 
Acts little of his will. 

Proof, as indeed aU else is, that Shakspeare never in- 
tended us to see the King with Hamlet's eyes ; though, 
I suspect, the managers have long done so. 

lb. Speech of Laertes : — 

To hell, allegiance ! vows, to the blackest devil 1 
Laertes is a good character, but, &c. Warburton. 

Mercy on Warburton's notion of goodness ! Please to 
refer to the seventh scene of this act ; — 

I will do it ; 

And for that purpose I'll anoint my sword, &c. 

uttered by Laertes after the King's description of 
Hamlet ; — 

He being remiss. 

Most generous, and free from all contriving, 

Will not peruse the foOs. 

Yet I acknowledge that Shakspeare evidently wishes, as 
much as possible, to spare the character of Laertes, — to 
break the extreme turpitude of his consent to become an 
agent and accomplice of the King's treachery ; — and to 
this end he re-introduces Ophelia at the close of this scene 
to afford a probable stimulus of passion in her brother. 

lb. sc. 6. Hamlet's capture by the pirates. This is 
almost the only play of Shakspeare, in which mere accidents, 
independent of all will, form an essential part of the plot ; 
— but here how judiciously in keeping with the character 

Notes on Hamlet 155 

of the over-meditative Hamlet, ever at last determined by 
accident or by a fit of passion ! 

lb. sc. 7. Note how the King first awakens Laertes's 
vanity by praising the reporter, and then gratifies it by the 
report itself, and finally points it by — 

Sir, this report of his 
Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy I — 

lb. King's speech : 

For goodness, growing to a pleurisy, 
Dies in his own too much. 

Theobald's note from Warburton, who conjectures 

I rather think that Shakspeare meant 'pleurisy,' but 
involved in it the thought of plethora, as supposing pleurisy 
to arise from too much blood ; otherwise I cannot explain 
the following line — 

And then this should is like a spendthrift sigh, 
That hurts by easing. 

In a stitch in the side every one must have heaved a sigh 
that 'hurt by easing.' 

Since writing the above I feel confirmed that 'pleurisy' 
is the right word ; for I find that in the old medical 
dictionaries the pleurisy is often called the 'plethory.' 

Queen. Your sister's drown'd, Laertes. 
Laer. Drown'd ! O, where ? 

That Laertes might be excused in some degree for not 
cooling, the Act concludes with the affecting death of 
Ophelia, — who in the beginning lay like a little projection 
of land into a lake or stream, covered with spray-flowers, 
quietly reflected in the quiet waters, but at length is under- 
mined or loosened, and becomes a faery isle, and after a 
brief vagrancy sinks almost without an eddy ! 

Act V. sc. I. O, the rich contrast between the Clowns 
and Hamlet, as two extremes ! You see in the former the 
mockery of logic, and a traditional wit valued, Hke truth, 
for its antiquity, and treasured up, like a tune, for use. 

lb. sc. I and 2. Shakspeare seems to mean aU Hamlet's 
character to be brought together before his final dis- 
appearance from the scene ; — his meditative excess in the 


Notes on Macbeth 

grave-digging, his yielding to passion with Laertes, his 
love for Ophelia blazing out, his tendency to generalize 
on all occasions in the dialogue with Horatio, his fine 
gentlemanly manners with Osrick, and his and Shak- 
speare's own fondness for presentiment : 

But thou would'st not think, how ill all's here about my heart : 
but it is no matter. 


Macbeth stands in contrast throughout with Hamlet ; 
in the manner of opening more especially. In the latter, 
there is a gradual ascent from the simplest forms of con- 
versation to the language of impassioned intellect, — yet 
the intellect still remaining the seat of passion : in the 
former, the invocation is at once made to the imagination 
and the emotions connected therewith. Hence the move- 
ment throughout is the most rapid of all Shakspeare's 
plays ; and hence also, with the exception of the disgusting 
passage of the Porter (Act ii. sc. 3), which I dare pledge 
myself to demonstrate to be an interpolation of the actors, 
there is not, to the best of my remembrance, a single pun 
or play on words in the whole drama. I have previously 
given an answer to the thousand times repeated charge 
against Shakspeare upon the subject of his punning, and 
I here merely mention the fact of the absence of any puns 
in Macbeth, as justifying a candid doubt at least, whether 
even in these figures of speech and fanciful modifications 
of language, Shakspeare may not have followed rules and 
principles that merit and would stand the test of philo- 
sophic examination. And hence, also, there is an entire 
absence of comedy, nay, even of irony and philosophic 
contemplation in Macbeth, — the play being wholly and 
purely tragic. For the same cause, there are no reasonings 
of equivocal morality, which would have required a more 
leisurely state and a consequently greater activity of 
mind ; — no sophistry of self-delusion, — except only that 
previously to the dreadful act, Macbeth mistranslates the 
recoilings and ominous whispers of conscience into pru- 
dential and selfish reasonings, and, after the deed done, 
the terrors of remorse into fear from external dangers, — 

Notes on Macbeth 157 

like delirious men who run away from the phantoms of 
their own brains, or, raised by terror to rage, stab the real 
object that is within their reach : — whilst Lady Macbeth 
merely endeavours to reconcile his and her own sinkings 
of heart by anticipations of the worst, and an affected 
bravado in confronting them. In all the rest, Macbeth's 
language is the grave utterance of the very heart, con- 
science-sick, even to the last faintings of moral death. 
It is the same in all the other characters. The variety 
arises from rage, caused ever and anon by disruption of 
anxious thought, and the quick transition of fear into it. 

In Hamlet and Macbeth the scene opens with super- 
stition ; but, in each it is not merely different, but opposite. 
In the first it is connected with the best and holiest feel- 
ings ; in the second with the shadowy, turbulent, and 
ansanctified cravings of the individual will. Nor is the 
purpose the same ; in the one the object is to excite, 
whilst in the other it is to mark a mind already excited. 
Superstition, of one sort or another, is natural to 
victorious generals ; the instances are too notorious to 
need mentioning. There is so much of chance in warfare, 
and such vast events are connected with the acts of a single 
individual, — the representative, in truth, of the efforts of 
myriads, and yet to the public and, doubtless, to his own 
feelings, the aggregate of all, — that the proper tempera- 
ment for generating or receiving superstitious impres- 
sions is naturally produced. Hope, the master element of 
a commanding genius, meeting with an active and combin- 
ing intellect, and an imagination of just that degree of vivid- 
ness which disquiets and impels the soul to try to realize 
its images, greatly increases the creative power of the 
mind ; and hence the images become a satisfying world of 
themselves, as is the case in every poet and original 
philosopher : — but hope fully gratified, and yet, the ele- 
mentary basis of the passion remaining, becomes fear ; 
and, indeed, the general, who must often feel, even though 
he may hide it from his own consciousness, how large a 
share chance had in his successes, may very naturally be 
irresolute in a new scene, where he knows that all will 
depend on his own act and election. 

The Weird Sisters are as true a creation of Shakspeare's, 
as his Ariel and Caliban, — fates, furies, and materializing 
witches being the elements. They are wholly different 

158 Notes on Macbeth 

from any representation of witches in the contemporary 
writers, and yet presented a sufficient external resemblance 
to the creatures of vulgar prejudice to act immediately on 
the audience. Their character consists in the imagina- 
tive disconnected from the good ; they are the shadowy 
obscure and fearfully anomalous of physical nature, the 
lawless of human nature, — elemental avengers without 
sex or kin : 

Fair is foul, and foul is fair ; 

Hover thro' the fog and filtliy air. 

How much it were to be wished in playing Macbeth, that 
an attempt should be made to introduce the flexile char- 
acter-mask of the ancient pantomime ; — that Flaxman 
would contribute his genius to the embodying and making 
sensuously perceptible that of Shakspeare ! 

The style and rhythm of the Captain's speeches in the 
second scene should be illustrated by reference to the 
interlude in Hamlet, in which the epic is substituted for 
the tragic, in order to make the latter be felt as the real-hfe 
diction. In Macbeth, the poet's object was to raise the 
mind at once to the high tragic tone, that the audience 
might be ready for the precipitate consummation of guilt 
in the early part of the play. The true reason for the first 
appearance of the Witches is to strike the key-note of the 
character of the whole drama, as is proved by their re- 
appearance in the third scene, after such an order of the 
king's as establishes their supernatural power of informa- 
tion. I say information, — for so it only is as to Glamis 
and Cawdor ; the 'king hereafter' was still contingent, — 
still in Macbeth' s moral will ; although, if he should yield 
to the temptation, and thus forfeit his free agency, the 
link of cause and effect more physico would then com- 
mence. I need not say, that the general idea is all that 
can be required from the poet, — not a scholastic logical 
consistency in all the parts so as to meet metaphysical 
objectors. But O ! how truly Shakspearian is the opening 
of Macbeth's character given in the unpossessedness of 
Banquo's mind, whoU}^ present to the present object, — 
an unsullied, unscarified mirror ! — And how strictly true 
to nature it is, that Banquo, and not Macbeth himself, 
directs our notice to the effect produced on Macbeth's 
mind, rendered temptible by previous dalliance of the 
fancy with ambitious thoughts : 

Notes on Macbeth 159 

Good Sir, why do you start ; and seem to fear 
Things that do sound so fair ? 

And then, again, still unintroitive, addresses the Witches : — 

I' the name of truth. 
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed 
Which outwardly ye sho^ ? 

Banquo's questions are those of natural curiosity, — such 
as a girl would put after hearing a gipsy tell her school- 
fellow's fortune ; — all perfectly general, or rather planless. 
But Macbeth, lost in thought, raises himself to speech 
only by the Witches being about to depart : — 

Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more : — 

and all that follows is reasoning on a problem already 
discussed in his mind, — on a hope which he welcomes, and 
the doubts concerning the attainment of which he wishes 
to have cleared up. Compare his eagerness, — the keen 
eye with which he has pursued the Witches' evanishing — 

Speak, I charge you ! 

with the easily satisfied mind of the self -uninterested 
Banquo : — 

The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, 

And these are of them : — Whither are they vanished ? 

and then Macbeth's earnest reply, — 

Into the air ; and what seem'd corporal, melted 
As breath into the wind. — ' Would they had staid I 

Is it too minute to notice the appropriateness of the simile 
'as breath,' &c., in a cold climate ? 

Still again Banquo goes on wondering like any common 
spectator : 

Were such things here as we do speak about ? 

whilst Macbeth persists in recurring to the self-concern- 
ing :— 

Your children shall be kings. 
Ban. You shall be king. 
Macb. And thane of Cawdor too : went it not so ? 

So surely is the guilt in its germ anterior to the supposed 
cause, and immediate temptation ! Before he can cool. 

i6o Notes on Macbeth 

the confirmation of the tempting half of the prophecy 
arrives, and the concatenating tendency of the imagination 
is fostered by the sudden coincidence : — 

Glamis, and thane of Cawdor : 
The greatest is behind. 

Oppose this to Banquo's simple surprise : — > 

What, can the devil speak true ? 

lb. Banquo's speech : — 

That, trusted home. 

Might yet enkindle you unto the crown. 

Besides the thane of Cawdor. 

I doubt whether 'enkindle' has not another sense than 
that of 'stimulating ;' I mean of 'kind' and 'kin,' as when 
rabbits are said to 'kindle.' However Macbeth no longer 
hears any thing ah extra : — 

Two truths are told, 

As happy prologues to the swelling act 

Of the imperial theme. 

Then in the necessity of recollecting himself — 

1 thank you, gentlemen. 

Then he relapses into himself again, and every word of his 
soliloquy shows the early birth-date of his guilt. He is 
all-powerful without strength ; he wishes the end, but is 
irresolute as to the means ; conscience distinctly warns 
him, and he lulls it imperfectly : — 

If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me 
Without my stir. 

Lost in the prospective of his guilt, he turns round alarmed 
lest others may suspect what is passing in his own mind, 
and instantly vents the lie of ambition : 

My dull brain was wrought 
With things forgotten ; — 

And immediately after pours forth the promising courtesies 
of a usurper in intention : — 

Kind gentlemen, your pains 
Are register'd where every day I turn 
The leaf to read them. 

Notes on Macbeth i6i 

lb. Macbeth's speech : 

Present fears 
Are less than horrible imaginings. 

Warburton's note, and substitution of 'feats' for 'fears.* 
Mercy on this most wilful ingenuity of blundering, 
which, nevertheless, was the very Warburton of Warburton 
— his inmost being ! 'Fears,' here, are present fear- 
striking objects, terrihilia adstantia. 

lb. sc. 4. O ! the affecting beauty of the death of 
Cawdor, and the presentimental speech of the king : 

There's no art 

To find the mind's construction in the face : 
He was a gentleman on whom I built 
An absolute trust — 

Interrupted by — 

O worthiest cousin ! 

Dn the entrance of the deeper traitor for whom Cawdor 
tiad made way ! And here in contrast with Duncan's 
'plenteous joys,' Macbeth has nothing but the common- 
places of loyalty, in which he hides himself with 'our 
duties.' Note the exceeding effort of Macbeth's addresses 
to the king, his reasoning on his allegiance, and then 
especially when a new difficulty, the designation of a 
successor, suggests a new crime. This, however, seems 
the first distinct notion, as to the plan of realizing his 
wishes ; and here, therefore, with great propriety, 
Macbeth's cowardice of his own conscience discloses 
itself. I always think there is something especially Shak- 
spearian in Duncan's speeches throughout this scene, such 
pourings forth, such abandonments, compared with the 
language of vulgar dramatists, whose characters seem to 
have made their speeches as the actors learn them. 
lb. Duncan's speech : — 

Sons, kinsmen, thanes, 
And you whose places are the nearest, know, 
We will establish our estate upon 
Our eldest Malcolm, whom we name hereafter 
The Prince of Cumberland : which honour must 
Not unaccompanied, invest him only ; 
But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine 
On all deservers. 

It is a fancy ; — but I can never read this and the follow- 


1 62 Notes on Macbeth 

ing speeches of Macbeth, without involuntarily thinking 
of the Miltonic Messiah and Satan. 

lb. sc. 5. Macbeth is described by Lady Macbeth so 
as at the same time to reveal her own character. Could 
he have every thing he v/anted, he would rather have it 
innocently ; — ignorant, as alas ! how many of us are, that 
he who wishes a temporal end for itself, does in truth will 
the means ; and hence the danger of indulging fancies. 
Lady Macbeth, hke all in Shakspeare, is a class individua- 
lized : — of high rank, left much alone, and feeding herself 
with day-dreams of ambition, she mistakes the courage 
of fantasy for the power of bearing the consequences of the 
realities of guilt. Hers is the mock fortitude of a mind 
deluded by ambition ; she shames her husband with a 
superhuman audacity of fancy which she cannot support, 
but sinks in the season of remorse, and dies in suicidal 
agony. Her speech : 

Come, all you spirits 
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, &c. 

is that of one who had habitually familiarized her imagina- 
tion to dreadful conceptions, and was trying to do so still 
more. Her invocations and requisitions are all the false 
efforts of a mind accustomed only hitherto to the shadows 
of the imagination, vivid enough to throw the every-day 
substances of life into shadow, but never as yet brought 
into direct contact with their own correspondent realities. 
She evinces no womanly life, no wifely joy, at the return 
of her husband, no pleased terror at the thought of his 
past dangers, whilst Macbeth bursts forth naturally — 

My dearest love — 

and shrinks from the boldness with which she presents his 
own thoughts to him. With consummate art she at first 
uses as incentives the very circumstances, Duncan's 
coming to their house, &c. which Macbeth's conscience 
would most probably have adduced to her as motives of 
abhorrence or repulsion. Yet Macbeth is not prepared : 

We will speak further. 

lb. SC. 6. The lyrical movement with which this scene 
opens, and the free and unengaged mind of Banquo, loving 
nature, and rewarded in the love itself, form a highly 

Notes on Macbeth 163 

dramatic contrast with the laboured rhythm and hypo- 
critical over-much of Lady Macbeth's welcome, in which 
you cannot detect a ray of personal feeling, but all is 
thrown upon the 'dignities,' the general duty, 
lb. sc. 7. Macbeth's speech : 

We will proceed no further in this business : 
He hath honor'd me of late ; and I have bought 
Golden opinions from all sorts of people. 
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss. 
Not cast aside so soon. 

Note the inward pangs and warnings of conscience 
interpreted into prudential reasonings. 
Act ii. sc. I. Banquo's speech : 

A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, 
And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers ! 
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts, that nature 
Gives way to in repose. 

The disturbance of an innocent soul by painful suspicions 
of another's guilty intentions and wishes, and fear of the 
cursed thoughts of sensual nature. 

lb. sc. 2. Now that the deed is done or doing — now 
that the first reahty commences. Lady Macbeth shrinks. 
The most simple sound strikes terror, the most natural 
consequences are horrible, whilst previously every thing, 
however awful, appeared a mere trifle ; conscience, which 
before had been hidden to Macbeth in selfish and prudential 
fears, now rushes in upon him in her own veritable person : 

Methought I heard a voice cry — Sleep no more I 

I could not say Amen, 
When they did say, God bless us ! 

And see the novelty given to the most familiar images by 
a new state of feeling. 

lb. sc. 3. This low soliloquy of the Porter and his few 
speeches afterwards, I believe to have been written for the 
mob by some other hand, perhaps with Shakspeare's 
consent ; and that finding it take, he with the remaining 
ink of a pen otherwise employed, just interpolated the 
words — 

I'll devil-porter it no further : I had thought to have let in some 
of all professions, that go the primrose way to th' everlasting 

164 Notes on Macbeth 

Of the rest not one syllable has the ever-present being of 

Act iii. sc. I. Compare Macbeth' s mode of working on 
the murderers in this place with Schiller's mistaken scene 
between Butler, Devereux, and Macdonald in Wallenstein. 
(Part II. act iv. sc. 2.) The comic was whoUy out of 
season. Shakspeare never introduces it, but when it may 
react on the tragedy by harmonious contrast. 

lb. sc. 2. Macbeth's speech : 

But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer, 
Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep 
In the affliction of these terrible dreams 
That shake us nightly. 

Ever and ever mistaking the anguish of conscience for 
fears of selfishness, and thus as a punishment of that 
selfishness, plunging still deeper in guilt and ruin. 

lb. Macbeth's speech : 

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, 
Till thou applaud the deed. 

This is Macbeth's sympathy with his own feelings, and 
liis mistaking his wife's opposite state. 
lb. sc. 4. 

Mach. It will have blood, they say ; blood will have blood : 
Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak ; 
Augurs, and understood relations, have 
By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth 
The secret' st man of blood. 

The deed is done ; but Macbeth receives no comfort, no 
additional security. He has by guilt torn himself live- 
asunder from nature, and is, therefore, himself in a preter- 
natural state : no wonder, then, that he is inclined to 
superstition, and faith in the unknown of signs and tokens, 
and super-human agencies. 

Act iv. sc. I. 

Len. 'Tis two or three, my lord, that bring you word, 
Macduff is fled to England. 
Mach. Fled to England 1 

The acme of the avenging conscience. 

lb. sc. 2. This scene, dreadful as it is, is still a relief, 
because a variety, because domestic, and therefore sooth- 
ing, as associated with the only real pleasures of life. The 

Notes on Macbeth 165 

conversation between Lady Macduff and her child heightens 
the pathos, and is preparatory for the deep tragedy of their 
assassination. Shakspeare's fondness for children is every 
where shown ; — in Prince Arthur, in King John ; in the 
sweet scene in the Winter's Tale between Hermione and 
her son ; nay, even in honest Evans's examination of 
Mrs. Page's schoolboy. To the objection that Shakspeare 
wounds the moral sense by the unsubdued, undisguised 
description of the most hateful atrocity — that he tears the 
feelings without mercy, and even outrages the eye itself 
with scenes of insupportable horror — I, omitting Titus 
Andronicus, as not genuine, and excepting the scene of 
Gloster's blinding in Lear, answer boldly in the name of 
Shakspeare, not guilty. 

lb. sc. 3. Malcolm's speech : 

Better Macbeth, 
Than such a one to reign. 

The moral is — the dreadful effects even on the best 
minds of the soul-sickening sense of insecurity. 

lb. How admirably Macduff's grief is in harmony with 
the whole play ! It rends, not dissolves, the heart. 'The 
tune of it goes manly. ' Thus is Shakspeare always master 
of himself and of his subject, — a genuine Proteus : — we 
see all things in him, as images in a calm lake, most distinct, 
most accurate, — only more splendid, more glorified. This 
is correctness in the only philosophical sense. But he 
requires your sympathy and your submission ; you must 
have that recipiency of moral impression without which the 
purposes and ends of the drama would be frustrated, and 
the absence of which demonstrates an utter want of all 
imagination, a deadness to that necessary pleasure of being 
innocently — shall I say, deluded ? — or rather, drawn away 
from ourselves to the music of noblest thought in har- 
monious sounds. Happy he, who not only in the public 
theatre, but in the labours of a profession, and round the 
light of his own hearth, still carries a heart so pleasure- 
fraught ! 

Alas for Macbeth ! now all is inward with him ; he has 
no more prudential prospective reasonings. His wife, the 
only being who could have had any seat in his affections, 
dies ; he puts on despondency, the final heart-armour of 
the wretched, and would fain think every thing shadowy 

i66 Notes on The Winters Tale 

and unsubstantial, as indeed all things are to those who 
cannot regard them as symbols of goodness : — 

Out out, brief candle ! 
Life's but a walking shadow ; a poor player, 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. 
And then is heard no more ; it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. 
Signifying nothing. 


Although, on the whole, this play is exquisitely respondent 
to its title, and even in the fault I am about to mention, 
still a winter's tale ; yet it seems a mere indolence of the 
great bard not to have provided in the oracular response 
(Act ii. sc. 2) some ground for Hermione's seeming death 
and fifteen years voluntary concealment. This might 
have been easily effected by some obscure sentence of 
the oracle, as for example : — 

' Nor shall he ever recover an heir, if he have a wife before thit 
recovery. ' 

The idea of this delightful drama is a genuine jealousy 
of disposition, and it should be immediately followed by 
the perusal of Othello, which is the direct contrast of it 
in every particular. For jealousy is a vice of the mind, 
a culpable tendency of the temper, having certain well 
known and well defined effects and concomitants, all of 
which are visible in Leontes, and, I boldly say, not one of 
which marks its presence in Othello ; — such as, first, an 
excitability by the most inadequate causes, and an eager- 
ness to snatch at proofs ; secondly, a grossness of concep- 
tion, and a disposition to degrade the object of the passion 
by sensual fancies and images ; thirdly, a sense of shame 
of his own feelings exhibited in a solitary moodiness of 
humour, and yet from the violence of the passion forced 
to utter itself, and therefore catching occasions to ease 
the mind by ambiguities, equivoques, by talking to those 
who cannot, and who are known not to be able to, under- 
stand what is said to them, — in short, by soliloquy in the 
form of dialogue, and hence a confused, broken, and 
fragmentary, manner ; fourthly, a dread of vulgar ridicule, 

Notes on The Winter's Tale 167 

as distinct from a high sense of honour, or a mistaken sense 
of duty ; and lastly, and immediately, consequent on this, 
a spirit of selfish vindictiveness. 

Act i. sc. I — 2. 

Observe the easy style of chitchat between Camillo and 
iVrchidamus as contrasted with the elevated diction on 
the introduction of the kings and Hermione in the second 
scene : and how admirably Polixenes' obstinate refusal 
to Leontes to stay — 

There is no tongue that moves ; none, none i' the world 
So soon as yours, could win me ; — 

prepares for the effect produced by his afterwards yielding 
to Hermione ; — which is, nevertheless, perfectly natural 
from mere courtesy of sex, and the exhaustion of the will 
by former efforts of denial, and well calculated to set in 
nascent action the jealousy of Leontes. This, when once 
excited, is unconsciously increased by Hermione : — 

Yet, good deed, Leontes, 
I love thee not a jar o' the clock behind 
What lady she her lord ; — 

accompanied, as a good actress ought to represent it, by 
an expression and recoil of apprehension that she had gone 
too far. 

At my request, he would not : — 

The first working of the jealous fit ; — 

Too hot, too hot : — 

The morbid tendency of Leontes to lay hold of the 
merest trifles, and his grossness immediately afterwards — 

Paddling palms and pinching fingers ; — 

followed by his strange loss of self-control in his dialogue 
Vvdth the little boy. 

Act iii. sc. 2. Paulina's speech : 

That thou betray'dst Polixenes, 'twas nothing ; 
That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant, 
And damnable ingrateful. — 

Theobald reads 'soul.' 

I think the original word is Shakspeare's. i. My ear 
feels it to be Shakspearian ; 2. The involved grammar is 

1 68 Notes on The Winter's Tale 

Shakspearian ; — 'show thee, being a fool naturally, to 
have improved thy folly by inconstancy ; ' 3. The altera- 
tion is most flat, and un-Shakspearian. As to the grossness 
of the abuse — she calls him 'gross and foolish' a few lines 

Act iv. sc. 2. Speech of Autolycus : — 

For the life to come, I sleep out the thought of it. 

Fine as this is, and delicately characteristic of one who 
had lived and been reared in the best society, and had been 
precipitated from it by dice and drabbing ; yet still it 
strikes against my feelings as a note out of tune, and as 
not coalescing with that pastoral tint which gives such a 
charm to this act. It is too Macbeth-like in the 'snapper 
up of unconsidered trifles.' 

lb. sc. 3. Perdita's speech : — 

From Dis's waggon ! daffodils. 

An epithet is wanted here, not merely or chiefly for the 
metre, but for the balance, for the aesthetic logic. 
Perhaps, 'golden' was the word which would set off the 
'violets dim.' 


Pale primroses 
That die unmarried. — 

Milton's — 

And the rathe primrose that forsaken dies. 

lb. Perdita's speech : — 

Even here undone : 

I was not much afear'd ; for once or twice 
I was about to speak, and tell him plainly, 
The self-same sun, that shines upon his court, 
Hides not his visage from our cottage, but 
Looks on alike. Wilt please you, Sir, be gone ! 

{To Florizel.) 
I told you, what would come of this. Beseech you, 
Of your own state take care : this dream of mine, 
Being now awake, I'll queen it no inch farther. 
But milk my ewes, and weep. 

O how more than exquisite is this whole speech ! — And 
that profound nature of noble pride and grief venting 
themselves in a momentary peevishness of resentment 
towards Florizel : — 

Wilt please you. Sir, be gone I 

Notes on Othello 169 

lb. Speech of Autolyciis : — 

Let me have no lying ; it becomes none but tradesmen, and they 
often give us soldiers the lie ; but we pay them for it in stamped 
coin, not stabbing steel ; — therefore they do not give us the lie. 

As we pay them, they, therefore, do not give it us. 


Act i. sc. I. 
Admirable is the preparation, so truly and peculiarly 
Shakspearian, in the introduction of Roderigo, as the dupe 
on whom lago shall first exercise his art, and in so doing 
display his own character. Roderigo, without any fixed 
principle, but not without the moral notions and sym- 
pathies with honour, which his rank and connections had 
hung upon him, is already well fitted and predisposed for 
the purpose ; for very want of character and strength of 
passion, like wind loudest in an empty house, constitute 
his character. The first three lines happily state the nature 
and foundation of the friendship between him and lago, — 
the purse, — as also the contrast of Roderigo's intemperance 
of mind with lago's coolness, — the coolness of a precon- 
ceiving experimenter. The mere language of protestation — 

If ever I did dream of such a matter, abhor me, — 

which falling in with the associative link, determines 
Roderigo's continuation of complaint — 

Thou told'st me, thou didst hold him in thy hate — 

elicits at length a true feeling of lago's mind, the dread 
of contempt habitual to those, who encourage in themselves, 
and have their keenest pleasure in, the expression of con- 
tempt for others. Observe lago's high self-opinion, and 
the moral, that a wicked man will employ real feelings, as 
well as assume those most alien from his own, as instru- 
ments of his purposes : — 

And, by the faith of man, 

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place. 

I think Tyrwhitt's reading of 'life' for Svife' — 

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife — 

lyo Notes on Othello 

the true one, as fitting to lago's contempt for whatever did 
not display power, and that intellectual power. In what 
follows, let the reader feel how by and through the glass 
of two passions, disappointed vanity and envy, the very 
vices of which he is complaining, are made to act upon 
him as if they were so many excellences, and the more 
appropriately, because cunning is always admired and 
wished for by minds conscious of inward weakness ; — but 
they act only by half, like music on an inattentive auditor, 
swelling the thoughts which prevent him from listening 
to it. 

Rod. "SVliat a full fortune does the thick-lips owe, 
If he can carry 't thus. 

Roderigo turns off to Othello ; and here comes one, 
if not the only, seeming justification of our blackamoor 
or negro Othello. Even if we supposed this an uninter- 
rupted tradition of the theatre, and that Shakspeare him- 
self, from want of scenes, and the experience that nothing 
could be made too marked for the senses of his audience, 
had practically sanctioned it, — would this prove aught 
concerning his own intention as a poet for all ages ? Can 
we imagine him so utterly ignorant as to make a barbarous 
negro plead royal birth, — at a time, too, when negroes 
were not known except as slaves ? — As for lago's language 
to Brabantio, it implies merely that Othello was a Moor, 
that is, black. Though I think the rivalry of Roderigo 
sufficient to account for his wilful confusion of Moor and 
Negro, — yet, even if compelled to give this up, I should 
think it only adapted for the acting of the day, and should 
complain of an enormity built on a single word, in direct 
contradiction to lago's 'Barbary horse.' Besides, if we 
could in good earnest believe Shakspeare ignorant of the 
distinction, still why should we adopt one disagreeable 
possibility instead of a ten times greater and more pleasing 
probability ? It is a common error to mistake the epithets 
apphed by the dramatis personcB to each other, as truly 
descriptive of what the audience ought to see or know. 
No doubt Desdemona saw Othello's visage in his mind ; 
yet, as we are constituted, and most surely as an Enghsh 
audience was disposed in the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, it would be something monstrous to conceive this 
beautiful Venetian girl falling in love with a veritable negro. 

Notes on Othello 171 

It would argue a disproportionateness, a want of balance, 
in Desdemona, which Shakspeare does not appear to have 
in the least contemplated, 
lb. Brabantio's speech : — 

This accident is not unlike my dream : — 

The old careful senator, being caught careless, transfers 
his caution to his dreaming power at least, 
lb. lago's speech : — 

— For their souls, 
Another of his fathom they have not. 
To lead their business : — 

The forced praise of Othello followed by the bitter hatred 
of him in this speech ! And observe how Brabantio's 
dream prepares for his recurrence to the notion of philtres, 
and how both prepare for carrying on the plot of the 
arraignment of Othello on this ground. 

lb. sc. 2. 

0th, 'Tis better as it is. 

How well these few words impress at the outset the 
truth of Othello's own character of himself at the end — 
'that he was not easily wrought !' His self-government 
contradistinguishes him throughout from Leontes. 

lb. Othello's speech : — 

— And my demerits 
May speak, unbonnetted — 

The argument in Theobald's note, where 'and bonnetted* 
is suggested, goes on the assumption that Shakspeare could 
not use the same word differently in different places ; 
whereas I should conclude, that as in the passage in Lear 
the word is employed in its direct meaning, so here it is 
used metaphorically ; and this is confirmed by what has 
escaped the editors, that it is not 'I,' but 'my demerits' 
that may speak unbonnetted, — without the symbol of a 
petitioning inferior. 

lb. Othello's speech : — 

So please your grace, my ancient ; 
A man he is of honesty and trust : 
To his conveyance I assign my wife. 

Compare this with the behaviour of Leontes to his true 
friend Camillo. 

172 Notes on Othello 

lb. sc. 3. 

Bra. Look to her, Moor ; have a quick eye to see ; 
She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee. 
0th. My life upon her faith. 

In real life, how do we look back to little speeches as 
presentimental of, or contrasted with, an affecting event ! 
Even so, Shakspeare, as secure of being read over and over, 
of becoming a family friend, provides this passage for his 
readers, and leaves it to them. 

lb. lago's speech : — 

Virtue ? a fig 1 'tis in ourselves, that we are thus, or thus, &c. 

This speech comprises the passionless character of lago. 
It is all will in intellect ; and therefore he is here a bold 
partizan of a truth, but yet of a truth converted into a 
falsehood by the absence of all the necessary modifications 
caused by the frail nature of man. And then comes the 
last sentiment, — 

Our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts, whereof 
I take this, that you call — love, to be a sect or scion ! 

Here is the true lagoism of, alas ! how many 1 Note 
lago's pride of mastery in the repetition of 'Go, make 
money ! ' to his anticipated dupe, even stronger than his 
love of lucre : and when Roderigo is completely won — 

I am chang'd. I'll go sell all my land — 

when the effect has been fully produced, the repetition of 
triumph — 

Go to ; farewell ; put money enough in your purse ! 

The remainder — lago's soliloquy — the motive-hunting of 
a motiveless malignity — how awful it is ! Yea, whilst he 
is still allowed to bear the divine image, it is too fiendish 
for his own steady view, — for the lonely gaze of a being 
next to devil, and only not quite devil, — and yet a char- 
acter which Shakspeare has attempted and executed, 
without disgust and without scandal ! 

Dr. Johnson has remarked that little or nothing is want- 
ing to render the Othello a regular tragedy, but to have 
opened the play with the arrival of OtheUo in Cyprus, and 
to have thrown the preceding act into the form of narration. 
Here then is the place to determine, whether such a change 

Notes on Othello 173 

would or would not be an improvement ; — nay, (to throw 
down the glove with a full challenge) whether the tragedy 
would or not by such an arrangement become more regular, 
— that is, more consonant with the rules dictated by 
universal reason, on the true common-sense of mankind, 
in its application to the particular case. For in all acts 
of judgment, it can never be too often recollected, and 
scarcely too often repeated, that rules are means to ends, 
and, consequently, that the end must be determined and 
understood before it can be known what the rules are or 
ought to be. Now, from a certain species of drama, pro- 
posing to itself the accomplishment of certain ends, — 
these partly arising from the idea of the species itself, but 
in part, likewise, forced upon the dramatist by accidental 
circumstances beyond his power to remove or control, — 
three rules have been abstracted ; — in other words, the 
means most conducive to the attainment of the proposed 
ends have been generalized, and prescribed under the 
names of the three unities, — the unity of time, the unity 
of place, and the unity of action, — which last would, 
perhaps, have been as appropriately, as well as more 
intelligibly, entitled the unity of interest. With this last 
the present question has no immediate concern : in fact, 
its conjunction with the former two is a mere delusion of 
words. It is not properly a rule, but in itself the great 
end not only of the drama, but of the epic poem, the lyric 
ode, of all poetry, down to the candle-flame cone of an 
epigram, — nay of poesy in general, as the proper generic 
term inclusive of all the fine arts as its species. But of 
the unities of time and place, which alone are entitled to 
the name of rules, the history of their origin will be their 
best criterion. You might lake the Greek chorus to a 
place, but you could not bring a place to them without as 
palpable an equivoque as bringing Birnam wood to 
Macbeth at Dunsinane. It was the same, though in a 
less degree, with regard to the unity of time : — the positive 
fact, not for a moment removed from the senses, the 
presence, I mean, of the same identical chorus, was a con- 
tinued measure of time ; — and although the imagination 
may supersede perception, yet it must be granted to be an 
imperfection — however easily tolerated — to place the two 
in broad contradiction to each other. In truth, it is a 
mere accident of terms ; for the Trilogy of the Greek 

174 Notes on Othello 

theatre was a drama in three acts, and notwithstanding 
this, what strange contrivances as to place there are in the 
Aristophanic Frogs. Besides, if the law of mere actual 
perception is once violated — as it repeatedly is even in the 
Greek tragedies — why is it more difficult to imagine three 
hours to be three years than to be a whole day and night ? 

Act ii. sc. I. 

Observe in how many ways Othello is made, first, our 
acquaintance, then our friend, then the object of our 
anxiety, before the deeper interest is to be approached ! 


Mont. But, good lieutenant, is your general wiv'd ? 

Cas. Most fortunately : he hath achiev'd a maid 
That paragons description, and wild fame ; 
One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens. 
And, in the essential vesture of creation, 
Does bear all excellency. 

Here is Cassio's warm-hearted, yet perfectly disengaged, 
praise of Desdemona, and sympathy with the 'most 
fortunately' wived Othello ; — and yet Cassio is an enthusi- 
astic admirer, almost a worshipper, of Desdemona. O, 
that detestable code that excellence cannot be loved in 
any form that is female, but it must needs be selfish ! 
Observe Othello's 'honest,' and Cassio's 'bold' lago, and 
Cassio's full guileless-hearted wishes for the safety and 
love raptures of Othello and 'the divine Desdemona.' 
And also note the exquisite circumstance of Cassio's 
kissing lago's wife, as if it ought to be impossible that the 
dullest auditor should not feel Cassio's religious love of 
Desdemona's purity. lago's answers are the sneers 
which a proud bad intellect feels towards women, and 
expresses to a wife. Surely it ought to be considered a 
very exalted compliment to women, that all the sarcasms 
on them in Shakspeare are put in the mouths of villains, 

Des. I am not merry ; but I do beguile, &c. 

The struggle of courtesy in Desdemona to abstract her 

{lago aside). He takes her by the palm : Ay, well said, whisper ; 
with as little a web as this, will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. 
Ay, smile upon her, do, &c. 

Notes on Othello 175 

The importance given to trifles, and made fertile by the 
villany of the observer. 

lb. lago's dialogue with Roderigo : 

This is the rehearsal on the dupe of the traitor's inten- 
tions on Othello. 

lb. lago's soliloquy : 

But partly led to diet my revenge, 
For that I do suspect the lusty Moor 
Hath leap'd into my seat. 

This thought, originally by lago's own confession a mere 
suspicion, is now ripening, and gnaws his base nature as his 
own 'poisonous mineral' is about to gnaw the noble heart 
of his general. 

lb. sc. 3. Othello's speech : 

I know, lago, 

Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter. 

Making it light to Cassio. 

Honesty and love ! Ay, and who but the reader of the 
play could think otherwise ? 
lb. lago's soliloquy : 

And what's he then that says — I play the villain ? 
When this advice is free I give, and honest, 
Probal to thinking, and, indeed, the course 
To win the Moor again. 

He is not, you see, an absolute fiend ; or, at least, he 
wishes to think himself not so. 
Act iii. sc. 3. 

Des. Before ^Emilia here, 
i give the warrant of thy place. 

The over-zeal of innocence in Desdemona. 

Enter Desdemona and Emilia. 

0th. If she be false, O, then, heaven mocks itself ! 
I'll not believe it. 

Divine ! The effect of mnocence and the better genius ! 
Act iv. sc. 3. 

Mmil. Why, the wrong is but a wrong i' the world ; and having 
the world for your labour, 'tis a wrong in your own world, and you 
might quickly make it right. 

Warburton's note. 

What any other man, who had learning enough, might 


Notes on Othello 

have quoted as a playful and witty illustration of his 
remarks against the Calvinistic thesis, Warburton gravely 
attributes to Shakspeare as intentional ; and this, too, in 
the mouth of a lady's woman ! 
Act V. last scene. Othello's speech : — 

Of one, whose hand, 

Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away 
Richer than all his tiube, &c. 

Theobald's note from Warburton. 

Thus it is for no-poets to comment on the greatest of 
poets ! To make Othello say that he, who had killed his 
wife, was like Herod who killed Mariamne ! — O, how many 
beauties, in this one line, were impenetrable to the ever 
thought-swarming, but idealess, Warburton ! Othello 
wishes to excuse himself on the score of ignorance, and yet 
not to excuse himself, — to excuse himself by accusing. 
This struggle of feeling is finely conveyed in the word 
'base,' which is applied to the rude Indian, not in his own 
character, but as the momentary representative of Othello's 
'Indian' — for I retain the old reading — means American, 
a savage in genere. 

Finally, let me repeat that OtheUo does not kill Desde- 
mona in jealousy, but in a conviction forced upon him by 
the almost superhuman art of lago, such a conviction as 
any man would and must have entertained who had be- 
lieved lago's honesty as OtheUo did. We, the audience, 
know that lago is a villain from the beginning ; but in 
considering the essence of the Shakspearian OtheUo, we 
must perseveringly place ourselves in his situation, and 
under his circumstances. Then we shaU immediately feel 
the fundamental difference between the solemn agony of 
the noble Moor, and the wretched fishing jealousies of 
Leontes, and the morbid suspiciousness of Leonatus, who is, 
in other respects, a fine character. OtheUo had no life but 
in Desdemona : — the belief that she, his angel, had faUen 
from the heaven of her native innocence, wrought a civil 
war in his heart. She is his counterpart ; and, like him, 
is almost sanctified in our eyes by her absolute unsus- 
piciousness, and holy entireness of love. As the curtain 
drops, which do we pity the most ? 

Extremum hunc . There are three powers : — 

Notes on Ben Jonson 177 

Wit, which discovers partial Hkeness hidden in general 
diversity; subtlety, which discovers the diversity con- 
cealed in general apparent sameness ; — and profundity, 
which discovers an essential unity under all the sem- 
blances of difference. 

Give to a subtle man fancy, and he is a wit ; to a deep 
man imagination, and he is a philosopher. Add, again, 
pleasurable sensibility in the threefold form of sympathy 
with the interesting in morals, the impressive in form, and 
the harmonious in sound, — and you have the poet. 

But combine all, — wit, subtlety, and fancy, with pro- 
fundity, imagination, and moral and physical suscepti- 
bility of the pleasurable, — and let the object of action be 
man universal ; and we shall have — O, rash prophecy I 
say, rather, we have — a Shakspeare ! 


It would be amusing to collect out of our dramatists from 
Ehzabeth to Charles I. proofs of the manners of the times. 
One striking symptom of general coarseness of manners, 
which may co-exist with great refinement of morals, as, 
alas ! vice versa, is to be seen in the very frequent allusions 
to the olfactories with their most disgusting stimulants, 
and these, too, in the conversation of virtuous ladies. 
This would not appear so strange to one who had been 
on terms of familiarity with Sicilian and Italian woimn 
of rank : and bad as they may, too many of them, actually 
be, yet I doubt not that the extreme grossness of their 
language has impressed many an Englishman of the present 
era with far darker notions than the same language would 
have produced in the mind of one of Elizabeth's or James's 
courtiers. Those who have read Shakspeare only, com- 
plain of occasional grossness in his plays ; but compare 
him with his contemporaries, and the inevitable conviction, 
is that of the exquisite purity of his imagination. 

The observation I have prefixed to the Volpone is the 
key to the faint interest which these noble efforts of intel- 
lectual power excite, with the exception of the fragment 
of the Sad Shepherd ; because in that piece only is there 
any character with whom you can morally sympathize. 
On the other hand, Measure for Measure is the only play 

lyS Notes on Ben Jonson 

of Shakspeare's in which there are not some one or more 
characters, generally many, whom you follow with affec- 
tionate feeling. For I confess that Isabella, of all Shak- 
speare's female characters, pleases me the least ; and 
Measure for Measure is, indeed, the only one of his genuine 
works, which is painful to me. 

Let me not conclude this remark, however, without a 
thankful acknowledgment to the manes of Ben Jonson, 
that the more I study his writings, I the more admire 
them ; and the more my study of him resembles that of 
an ancient classic, in the minniicB of his rhythm, metre, 
choice of words, forms of connection, and so forth, the 
more numerous have the points of my admiration become. 
I may add, too, that both the study and the admiration 
cannot but be disinterested, for to expect therefrom any 
advantage to the present drama would be ignorance. 
The latter is utterly heterogeneous from the drama of the 
Shakspearian age, with a diverse object and contrary 
principle. The on€ was to present a model by imitation 
of real life, taking from real life all that in it which it ought 
to be, and supplying the rest ; — the other is to copy what 
is, and as it is, — at best a tolerable, but most frequently 
a blundering, copy. In the former the difference was an 
essential element ; in the latter an involuntary defect. 
We should think it strange, if a tale in dance were an- 
nounced, and the actors did not dance at all ; — and yet 
such is modern comedy. 


But Jonson was soon sensible, how inconsistent this medley of 
names and manners was in reason and nature ; and with how little 
propriety it could ever have a place in a legitimate and just picture 
of real life. 

But did Jonson reflect that the very essence of a play, 
the very language in which it is written, is a fiction to 
which all the parts must conform ? Surely, Greek manners 
in English should be a still grosser improbability than a 
Greek name transferred to English manners. Ben's per- 
soncB are too often not characters, but derangements ; — 
the hopeless patients of a mad-doctor rather, — exhibitions 
-of folly betraying itself in spite of existing reason and 

Notes on Ben Jonson 179 

prudence. He not poetically, but painfully exaggerates 
every trait ; that is, not by the drollery of the circum- 
stance, but by the excess of the originating feeling. 

But to this we might reply, that far from being thought to build 
his characters upon abstract ideas, he was really accused of re- 
presenting particular persons then existing ; and that even those 
characters which appear to be the most exaggerated, are said to 
have had their respective archetypes in nature and life. 

This degrades Jonson into a libeller, instead of justifying 
him as a dramatic poet. Non quod verum est, sed quod 
verisimile, is the dramatist's rule. At aU events, the poet 
who chooses transitory manners, ought to content himself 
with transitory praise. If his object be reputation, he 
ought not to expect fame. The utmost he can look 
forwards to, is to be quoted by, and to enliven the writings 
of, an antiquarian. Pistol, Nym and id genus omne, do 
not please us as characters, but are endured as fantastic 
creations, foils to the native wit of Falstaff. — I say wit 
emphatically ; for this character so often extolled as the 
masterpiece of humour, neither contains, nor was meant 
to contain, any humour at all. 


It is to the honour of Jonson's judgment, that the greatest poet of 
our nation had the same opinion of Donne's genius and wit ; and 
hath preserved part of him from perishing, by putting his thoughts 
and satire into modern verse. 

Videlicet Pope ! 

He said further to Drummond, Shakspeare wanted art, and some- 
times sense ; for in one of his plays he brought in a number of men, 
saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where is no sea 
near by a hundred miles. 

I HAVE often thought Shakspeare justified in this seeming 
anachronism. In Pagan times a single name of a German 
kingdom might weU be supposed to comprise a hundred 
miles more than at present. The truth is, these notes of 
Drummond' s are more disgraceful to himself than to 
Jonson. It would be easy to conjecture how grossly 
Jonson must have been misunderstood, and what he had 
said in jest, as of Hippocrates, interpreted in earnest. 

i8o Notes on Ben Jonson 

But this is characteristic of a Scotchman ; he has no 
notion of a jest, unless you tell him — 'This is a joke !' — 
and still less of that finer shade of feeling, the half-and- 
half, in which Englishmen naturally delight. 



The throat of war be stopt within her land, 
And turtle-footed peace dance fairie rings 
About her court. 

Turtle-footed is a pretty word, a very pretty word : 
pray, what does it mean ? Doves, I presume, are not 
dancers ; and the other sort of turtle, land or sea, green-fat 
or hawksbill, would, I should suppose, succeed better in 
slow minuets than in the brisk rondillo. In one sense, to 
be sure, pigeons and ring-doves could not dance but with 
€clat — a claw ? 



Light ! I salute thee, biit with wounded nen'es, 
Wishing thy golden splendour pitchy darkness. 

There is no reason to suppose Satan's address to the sun 
in the Paradise Lost, more than a mere coincidence with 
these lines ; but were it otherwise, it would be a fine 
instance, what usurious interest a great genius pays in 
borrowing. It would not be difficult to give a detailed 
psychological proof from these constant outbursts of 
anxious self-assertion, that Jonson was not a genius, a 
creative power. Subtract that one thing, and you may 
safely accumulate on his name all other excellences of a 
capacious, vigorous, agile, and richly-stored intellect. 
Act i. sc. I. 

Ovid. While slaves be false, fathers hard, and bawds be whorish — 

The roughness noticed by Theobald and Whalley, may be 
cured by a simple transposition : — 

While fathers hard, slaves false, and bawds be whorish. 

Notes on Ben Jonson i8i 

Act iv. sc. 3. 

Crisp. O — oblatrant — furibund — fatuate — strenuous. 
O — conscious. 

It would form an interesting essay, or rather series of 
essays, in a periodical work, were all the attempts to 
ridicule new phrases brought together, the proportion 
observed of words ridiculed which have been adopted, and 
are now common, such as strenuous, conscious, &c., and a 
trial made how far any grounds can be detected, so that 
one might determine beforehand whether a word was 
invented under the conditions of assimilability to our 
language or not. Thus much is certain, that the ridiculers 
were as often wrong as right ; and Shakspeare himself 
could not prevent the naturalization of accommodation, 
remuneration, &c. ; or Swift the gross abuse even of the 
word idea. 

Act i. 

Arruntiiis. The name Tiberius, 
I hope, will keep, howe'er he hath foregone 
The dignity and power. 

Silius. Sure, while he lives. 

Art. And dead, it comes to Drusus. Should he fail. 
To the brave issue of Germanicus ; 
And they are three : too many (ha ?) for him 
To have a plot upon ? 

Sil. I do not know 
The heart of his designs ; but, sure, their face 
Looks farther than the present. 

Arr. By the gods, 
If I could guess he had but such a thought, 
My sword should cleave him down, &c. 

The anachronic mixture in this Arruntius of the Roman 
republican, to whom Tiberius must have appeared as much 
a tyrant as Sejanus with his James-and-Charles-the-First 
zeal for legitimacy of descent, in this passage, is amusing. 
Of our great names Milton was, I think, the first who 
could properly be called a repubHcan. My recollections 
of Buchanan's works are too faint to enable me to judge 
whether the historian is not a fair exception. 

i82 Notes on Ben Jonson 

Act ii. Speech of Sejanus : — 

Adultery ! it is the lightest ill 
I will commit. A race of wicked acts 
Shall flow out of my anger, and o'erspread 
The world's wide face, which no posterity 
Shall e'er approve, nor yet keep silent, &c. 

The more we reflect and examine, examine and reflect, 
the more astonished shall we be at the immense superiority 
of Shakspeare over his contemporaries : — and yet what 
contemporaries ! — giant minds indeed ! Think of 
Jonson's erudition, and the force of learned authority in 
that age ; and yet in no genuine part of Shakspeare' s 
works is there to be found such an absurd rant and ven- 
triloquism as this, and too, too many other passages 
ferruminated by Jonson from Seneca's tragedies and the 
writings of the later Romans. I call it ventriloquism, 
because Sejanus is a puppet, out of which the poet makes 
his own voice appear to come. 

Act V. Scene of the sacrifice to Fortune. This scene 
is unspeakably irrational. To believe, and yet to scoff at, 
a present miracle is little less than impossible. Sejanus 
should have been made to suspect priestcraft and a secret 
conspiracy against him. 


This admirable, indeed, but yet more wonderful than 
admirable, play is from the fertility and vigour of inven- 
tion, character, language, and sentiment the strongest 
proof, how impossible it is to keep up any pleasurable 
interest in a tale, in which there is no goodness of heart 
in any of the prominent characters. After the third act, 
this play becomes not a dead, but a painful, weight on the 
feelings. Zeluco is an instance of the same truth. Bonario 
and Celia should have been made in some way or other 
principals in the plot ; which they might have been, and 
the objects of interest, without having been made char- 
acters. In novels, the person, in whose fate you are most 
interested, is often the least marked character of the whole. 
If it were possible to lessen the paramountcy of Volpone 
himself, a most delightful comedy might be produced, by 

Notes on Ben Jonson 183 

making Celia the ward or niece of Corvino, instead of his 
wife, and Bonario her lover. 


This is to my feehngs the most entertaining of old Ben's 
comedies, and, more than any other, would admit of being 
brought out anew, if under the management of a judicious 
and stage-understanding play-wright ; and an actor, who 
had studied Morose, might make his fortune. 
Act i. sc. I. Clerimont's speech : — 

He would have hanged a pewterer's 'prentice once on a Shrove 
Tuesday's riot, for being o' that trade, when the rest were quiet. 

The old copies read quit, i.e. discharged from working, and gone 
to divert themselves. Whalley's note. 

It should be quit, no doubt ; but not meaning 'dis- 
charged from working,' &c. — but quit, that is, acquitted. 
The pewterer was at his holiday diversion as well as the 
other apprentices, and they as forward in the riot as he. 
But he alone was punished under pretext of the riot, but 
in fact for his trade. 

Act ii. sc. I. 

Morose. Cannot I, yet, find out a more compendious method, 
than by this trunk, to save my servants the labour of speech, and 
mine ears the discord of sounds ? 

What does 'trunk' mean here and in the ist scene oi 
the 1st act ? Is it a large ear-trumpet ? — or rather a 
tube, such as passes from parlour to kitchen, instead of 
a bell ? 

Whalley's note at the end. 

Some critics of the last age imagined the character of Morose 
to be wholly out of nature. But to vindicate our poet, Mr. Dryden 
tells us from tradition, and we may venture to take his word, that 
Jonson was really acquainted with a person of this whimsical turn 
of mind : and as humour is a personal quality, the poet is acquitted 
from the charge of exhibiting a monster, or an extravagant un- 
natural caricatura. 

If Dryden had not made all additional pfoof superfluous 
by his own plays, this very vindication would evince that 
he had formed a false and vulgar conception of the nature 

184 Notes on Ben Jonson 

and conditions of the drama and dramatic personation. 
Ben Jonson would himself have rejected such a plea : — 

For he knew, poet never credit gain'd 

By writing truths, but things, Uke truths, well feign'd. 

By 'truths* he means 'facts.' Caricatures are not less 
so, because they are found existing in real life. Comedy 
demands characters, and leaves caricatures to farce. The 
safest and truest defence of old Ben would be to call the 
Epicaene the best of farces. The defect in Morose, as in 
other of Jonson's dramatis persons, lies in this ; — that the 
accident is not a prominence growing out of, and nourished 
by, the character which still circulates in it, but that the 
character, such as it is, rises out of, or, rather, consists 
in, the accident. Shakspeare's comic personages have 
exquisitely characteristic features ; however awry, dis- 
proportionate, and laughable they may be, still, like 
Bardolph's nose, they are features. But Jonson's are 
either a man with a huge wen, having a circulation of its 
own, and which we might conceive amputated, and the 
patient thereby losing all his character ; or they are 
mere wens themselves instead of men, — wens personified, 
or with eyes, nose, and mouth cut out, mandrake-fashion. 
Nota bene. All the above, and much more, will have 
justly been said, if, and whenever, the drama of Jonson 
is brought into comparisons of rivalry with the Shak- 
spearian. But this should not be. Let its inferiority to 
the Shakspearian be at once fairly owned, — but at the same 
time as the inferiority of an altogether different genus of 
the drama. On this ground, old Ben would still maintain 
his proud height. He, no less than Shakspeare, stands 
on the summit of his hill, and looks round him like a 
master, — though his be Lattrig and Shakspeare's Skiddaw. 


Act i. sc. 2. Face's speech : — 

Will take his oath o' the Greek Xenophon, 
If need be, in his pocket. 

Another reading is 'Testament.' 

Probably, the meaning is — that intending to give false 
evidence, he carried a Greek Xenophon to pass it off for 

Notes on Ben Jonson 185 

ft Greek Testament, and so avoid perjury — as the Irish do, 
by contriving to kiss their thumb-nails instead of the book. 
Act ii. sc. 2. Mammon's speech : — 

I will have all my beds blown up ; not stuft : 
Down is too hard. 

Thus the air-cushions, though perhaps only lately 
brought into use, were invented in idea in the seventeenth 
century ! 


A FONDNESS for judging one work by comparison with 
others, perhaps altogether of a different class, argues a 
vulgar taste. Yet it is chiefly on this principle that the 
Catiline has been rated so low. Take it and Sejanus, as 
compositions of a particular kind, namely, as a mode of 
relating great historical events in the liveliest and most 
interesting manner, and I cannot help wishing that we 
had whole volumes of such plays. We might as rationally 
expect the excitement of the Vicar of Wakefield from 
Goldsmith's History of England, as that of Lear, Othello, 
&c. from the Sejanus or Catiline. 
Act i. sc. 4. 

Cat. Sirrah, what ail you ? 

{He spies one of his boys not answer.) 
Pag. Nothing. 
Best. Somewhat modest. 
Cat. Slave, I will strike your soul out with my foot, &c. 

This is either an unintelligible, or, in every sense, a 
most unnatural, passage, — improbable, if not impossible, 
at the moment of signing and swearing such a conspiracy, 
to the most libidinous satyr. The very presence of the boys 
is an outrage to probability. I suspect that these lines 
down to the words 'throat opens,' should be removed back 
so as to follow the words 'on this part of the house,' in th< 
speech of Catiline soon after the entry of the conspirators. 
A total erasure, however, would be the best, or, ratheu 
the only possible, amendment. 

Act ii. sc. 2. Sempronia's speech : — 

— He is but a new fellow, 
An inmate here in Rome, as Catiline calls him— 

i86 Notes on Ben Jonson 

A 'lodger' would have been a happier imitation of the 
utquilinus of Sallust. 

Act iv. sc. 6. Speech of Cethegus : — 

Can these or such be any aids to us, &c. 

What a strange notion Ben must have formed of a 
determined, remorseless, all-daring, fool-hardiness, to have 
represented it in such a mouthing Tamburlane, and bom- 
bastic tonguebully as this Cethegus of his 1 


Induction. Scrivener's speech : — 

If there be never a servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, 
he says, nor a nest of antiques ? 

The best excuse that can be made for Jonson, and in a 
somewhat less degree for Beaumont and Fletcher, in 
respect of these base and silly sneers at Shakspeare, is, 
that his plays were present to men's minds chiefly as acted. 
They had not a neat edition of them, as we have, so as, 
by comparing the one with the other, to form a just notion 
of the mighty mind that produced the whole. At all 
events, and in every point of view, Jonson stands far 
higher in a moral light than Beaumont and Fletcher. He 
was a fair contemporary, and in his way, and as far as 
Shakspeare is concerned, an original. But Beaumont and 
Fletcher were always imitators of, and often borrowers 
from, him, and yet sneer at him with a spite far more 
malignant than Jonson, who, besides, has made noble 
compensation by his praises. 
Act ii. sc. 3. 

Just. I mean a child of the horn-thumb, a babe of booty, boy, a 
cut purse. 

Does not this confirm, what the passage itself cannot 
but suggest, the propriety of substituting 'booty' for 
'beauty' in Falstaff's speech, Henry IV. Pt. I. act i. sc. 2. 
'Let not us, &c. ? ' 

It is not often that old Ben condescends to imitate a 
modem author ; but Master Dan. Knockhum Jordan and 
his vapours are manifest reflexes of Nym and Pistol. 

Notes on Ben Jonson 187 

lb. sc. 5. 

Quart. She'll make excellent geer for the coachmakers here in 
Smithfield, to anoint wheels and axletrees with. 

Good ! but yet it falls short of the speech of a Mr. 
Johnes, M.P., in the Common Council, on the invasion 
intended by Buonaparte : 'Houses plundered — then burnt ; 
— sons conscribed — wives and daughters ravished/ &c., &c. 
— " But as for you, you luxurious Aldermen ! with your 
fat will he grease the wheels of his triumphant chariot ! " 

lb. sc. 6. 

Cok. Avoid i' your satin doublet, Numps. 

This reminds me of Shakspeare's 'Aroint thee, witch !' 
I find in several books of that age the words aloigne and 
doigne — that is, 'keep your distance !' or 'off with you !' 
Perhaps 'aroint' was a corruption of 'aloigne' by the 
vulgar. The common etymology from ronger to gnaw 
seems unsatisfactory. 

Act iii. sc. 4. 

Quurl. How now, Numps ! almost tired i' your protectorship ? 
overparted, overparted ? 

An odd sort of propheticality in this Numps and old 

lb. sc. 6. Knockhum's speech : — 

He eats with his eyes, as well as his teeth. 

A good motto for the Parson in Hogarth's Election 
Dinner, — who shows how easily he might be reconciled 
to the Church of Rome, for he worships what he eats. 

Act V. sc. 5. 

Pup. Di. It is not prophane. 

Lan. It is not prophane, he says. 

Boy. It is prophane. 

Pup. It is not prophane. 

Boy. It is prophane. 

Pup. It is not prophane. 

Lan. Well said, confute him with Not, still. 

An imitation of the quarrel between Bacchus and the 
Frogs in Aristophanes : — 

dXXa fiTfjv KeKpa^6/j.i:cr9d 7', 
ovhaov T) c^pvy^ 3.v i)fiCov 

i88 Notes on Ben Jonson 

XavSayT], St,' i}/j.ipas, 
^p€KeK€K^^, Koa^, Koa^. 

Tovri^ yap ou vLKfjcreTe. 

ovSk fi^v -^ftds ail iravTios. 

oid^ /j.r]v v/xeTs ye d-q fi' ovdiirore. 

Act i. sc. I. 

Pug. Why any : Fraud, 
Or Covetousness, or lady Vanity, 
Or old Iniquity, I'll call him hither. 

The words in italics should probably be given to the master- 
devil, Satan. Whalley's note. 

That is, against all probability, and with a (for Jonson) 
impossible violation of character. The words plainly 
belong to Pug, and mark at once his simpleness and his 

lb. sc. 4. Fitz-dottrel's soliloquy : — 

Compare this exquisite piece of sense, satire, and sound 
philosophy in 1616 with Sir M. Hale's speech from the 
bench in a trial of a witch many years afterwards.^ 

Act ii. sc. I. Meercraft's speech : — 

Sir, money's a whore, a bawd, a drudge. — 

I doubt not that 'money' was the first word of the line, 
and has dropped out : — 

Money ! Sir, money's a, &c. 


Act iv. sc. 3. Pecunia's speech : — 

No, he would ha' done. 

That lay not in his power : he had the use 

Of your bodies, Band and Wax, and sometimes Statute's. 

Read (1815), 

— he had the use of 
Your bodies, &c. 

Now, however, I doubt the legitimacy of my transposition 
of the 'of from the beginning of this latter line to the end 

^ In 1664, at Bury St. Edmonds on the trial of Rose Cullender and Amy Duny. Jid. 

Notes on Ben Jonson 189 

of the one preceding ; — for though it facilitates the metre 
and reading of the latter line, and is frequent in Massinger, 
this disjunction of the preposition from its case seems to 
have been disallowed by Jonson. Perhaps the better 
reading is — 

C your bodies, &c. — 

the two syllables being slurred into one, or rather snatched, 
or sucked, up into the emphasized 'your.' In all points 
of view, therefore, Ben's judgment is just ; for in this way, 
the line cannot be read, as metre, without that strong and 
quick emphasis on 'your' which the sense requires ; — and 
had not the sense required an emphasis on ' your,' the 
tmesis of the sign of its cases 'of,' 'to,' &c. would destroy 
almost all boundary between the dramatic verse and 
prose in comedy : — a lesson not to be rash in conjectural 
amendments. 1818. 
lb. sc. 4. 

P. jun. I love all men of virtue, frommy Princess. — 

'Frommy,' fromme, pious, dutiful, &c. 
Act V. sc. 4. Penny-boy sen. and Porter : — 
I dare not, will not, think that honest Ben had Lear in 
his mind in this mock mad scene. 


Act i. sc. I. Host's speech : — 

A heavy purse, and then two turtles, makes. — 

'Makes,' frequent in old books, and even now used in 
some counties for mates, or pairs, 
lb. sc. 3. Host's speech : — 

— And for a leap 
C the vaulting horse, to play the vaulting house. — 

Instead of reading with Whalley 'ply* for 'play,' I 
would suggest 'horse' for 'house.' The meaning would 
then be obvious and pertinent. The punlet, or pun- 
maggot, or pun intentional, 'horse and house,' is below 
Jonson. The jeu-de-mots just below — 

IQO Notes on 

Read a lecture 
Upon AquinsiS at St. Thomas a Waterings — 

had a learned smack in it to season its insipidity, 
lb. sc. 6. Lovel's speech : — 

Then shower'd his bounties on me, like the Hours, 
That open-handed sit upon the clouds, 
And press the liberality of heaven 
Down to the laps of thankful men I 

Like many other similar passages in Jonson, this is 
tldog ;;^aX£'Toi' /deTv — a sight which it is difficult to make 
one's self see, — a picture my fancy cannot copy detached 
from the words. 

Act ii. sc. 5. Though it was hard upon old Ben, yet 
Felton, it must be confessed, was in the right in consider- 
ing the Fly, Tipto, Bat Burst, &c. of this play mere dotages. 
Such a scene as this was enough to damn a new play ; and 
Nick Stuff is worse still, — most abominable stuff indeed ! 

Act iii. sc. 2. Lovel's speech : — 

So knowledge first begets benevolence, 
Benevolence breeds friendship, friendship love. — 

Jonson has elsewhere proceeded thus far ; but the part 
most difficult and delicate, yet, perhaps, not the least 
capable of being both morally and poetically treated, is 
the union itself, and what, even in this life, it can be. 


Seward's Preface. 1750. 

The King And No King, too, is extremely spirited in all its char- 
acters ; Arbaces holds up a mirror to all men of virtuous principles 
but violent passions. Hence he is, as it were, at once magnanimity 
and pride, patience and fury, gentleness and rigour, chastity and 
incest, and is one of the finest mixtures of virtues and vices that any 
poet has drawn, &c. 

These are among the endless instances of the abject state 
to which pyschology had sunk from the reign of Charles 
L to the middle of the present reign of George IIL ; and 
even now it is but just awaking. 

Beaumont and Fletcher igi 

lb. Seward's comparison of Julia's speech in the Two 
Gentlemen of Verona, act iv. last scene — 

Madam, 'twas Ariadne passioning, &c. 

with Aspatia's speech in the Maid's Tragedy — 

I stand upon the sea-beach now, &c. Act ii. 

and preference of the latter. 

It is strange to take an incidental passage of one writer, 
intended only for a subordinate part, and compare it with 
the same thought in another writer, who had chosen it for 
a prominent and principal figure. 

lb. Seward's preference of Alphonso's poisoning in A 
Wife for a Month, act i. sc. i, to the passage in King John, 
act V. sc. 7, — 

Poison'd, ill fare ! dead, forsook, cast off I 

Mr. Seward ! Mr. Seward ! you may be, and I trust you 
are, an angel ; but you were an ass. 

Every reader of taste will see how superior this is to the quotation 
from Shakspeare. 

Of what taste ? 

lb. Seward's classification of the plays : — 
Surely Monsieur Thomas, the Chances, Beggar's Bush, 
and the Pilgrim, should have been placed in the very first 
class ! But the whole attempt ends in a woful failure. 


I'd have a state of wit convok'd, which hath 
A power to take up on common faith : — 

This is an instance of that modifying of quantity by 
emphasis, without which our elder poets cannot be scanned. 
'Power,' here, instead of being one long syllable — pow'r — 
must be sounded, not indeed as a spondee, nor yet as a 
trochee ; but as — " u ; — the first syllable is ij. 

We can, indeed, never expect an authentic edition of 
our elder dramatic poets (for in those times a drama was 
a poem), until some man undertakes the work, who has 
studied the philosophy of metre. This has been found 

192 Notes on 

the main torch of sound restoration in the Greek dramatists 
by Bentley, Porson, and their followers ; — how much more, 
then, in writers in our own language ! It is true that 
quantity, an almost iron law with the Greek, is in English 
rather a subject for a peculiarly fine ear, than any law or 
even rule ; but, then, instead of it, we have, first, accent ; 
secondly, emphasis ; and lastly, retardation, and accelera- 
tion of the times of syllables according to the meaning of 
the words, the passion that accompanies them, and even 
the character of the person that uses them. With due 
attention to these, — above all, to that, which requires the 
most attention and the finest taste, the character, Mas- 
singer, for example, might be reduced to a rich and yet 
regular metre. But then the regulce must be first known ; 
— though I will venture to say, that he who does not find 
a line (not corrupted) of Massinger's flow to the time total 
of a trimeter catalectic iambic verse, has not read it aright. 
But by virtue of the last principle — the retardation or 
acceleration of time — we have the proceleusmatic foot 

K) Kj Kj Kj, and the dispondceus , not to mention 

the choriamhus, the ionics, paeons, and epitrites. Since 
Dryden, the metre of our poets leads to the sense : in our 
elder and more genuine bards, the sense, including the 
passion, leads to the metre. Read even Donne's satires 
as he meant them to be read, and as the sense and passion 
demand, and you will find in the lines a manly harmony. 

EDITION. 1811. 

In general their plots are more regular than Shakspeare's. — 

This is true, if true at aU, only before a court of criticism, 
which judges one scheme by the laws of another and a 
diverse one. Shakspeare's plots have their own laws or 
regulcB, and according to these they are regular. 


Act i. The metrical arrangement is most slovenly 

Strat. As well as masque can be, &c. 

Beaumont and Fletcher 193 

and all that follows to 'who is return'd' — is plainly blank 
verse, and falls easily into it. 
lb. Speech of Melantius : — 

These soft and silken wars are not for me : 
The music must be shrill, and all confus'd. 
That stirs my blood ; and then I dance with arms. 

What strange self-trumpeters and tongue-bulhes all the 
brave soldiers of Beaumont and Fletcher are ! Yet I am 
inclined to think it was the fashion of the age from the 
Soldier's speech in the Counter Scuffle ; and deeper than 
the fashion B. and F. did not fathom. 

lb. Speech of Lysippus : — 

Yes, but this lady- 
Walks discontented, with her wat'ry eyes 
Bent on the earth, &c. 

Opulent as Shakspeare was, and of his opulence prodigal, 
he yet would not have put this exquisite piece of poetry 
in the mouth of a no-character, or as addressed to a 
Melantius. I wish that B. and F. had written poems 
instead of tragedies, 

Mel. I might run fiercely, not more hastily, 
Upon my foe. 

I might run more fiercely, not more hastily. — 

lb. Speech of Calianax : — 

Office ! I would I could put it off ! I am sure I sweat quite 
through my office ! 

The syllable off reminds the testy statesman of his robe, 
and he carries on the image, 
lb. Speech of Melantius : — 

—Would that blood, 
That sea of blood, that I have lost in fight, &c. 

All B. and F.'s generals are pugilists, or cudgel-fighters, 
that boast of their bottom and of the claret they have shed, 
lb. The Masque ; — Cinthia's speech : — 

But I will give a greater state and glory. 
And raise to time a noble mem5ry 
Of what these lovers are, 

I suspect that 'nobler,' pronounced as 'nobiler' — o — , 

194 Notes on 

was the poet's word, and that the accent is to be placed 
on the penultimate of 'memory.' As to the passage — 

Yet, while our reign lasts, let us stretch our power, &c. 

removed from the text of Cinthia's speech by these foolish 
editors cls unworthy of B. and F. — the first eight lines are 
not worse, and the last couplet incomparably better, than 
the stanza retained. 

Act ii. Amintor's speecii : — 

Oh, thou hast nam'd a word, that wipes away- 
All thoughts revengeful ! In that sacred name, 
'The king,' there lies a terror. 

It is worth noticing that of the three greatest tragedians, 
Massinger was a democrat, Beaumont and Fletcher the 
most servile jure divino royalist, and Shakspeare a philo- 
sopher ; — if aught personal, an aristocrat. 


Act iv. Speech of Tigranes : — 

She, that forgat the greatness of her grief 

And miseries, that must follow such mad passions, 

Endless and wild as women ! &c, 

Seward's note and suggestion of *in.' 

It would be amusing to learn from some existing friend 
of Mr. Seward what he meant, or rather dreamed, in this 
note. It is certainly a difficult passage, of which there 
are two solutions ; — one, that the writer was somewhat 
more injudicious than usual ; — the other, that he was very, 
very much more profound and Shakspearian than usual. 
Seward's emendation, at aU events, is right and obvious. 
Were it a passage of Shakspeare, I should not hesitate to 
interpret it as characteristic of Tigranes' state of mind, dis- 
liking the very virtues, and therefore half-consciously 
representing them as mere products of the violence of the 
sex in general in all their whims, and yet forced to admire, 
and to feel and to express gratitude for, the exertion in his 
own instance. The inconsistency of the passage would 
be the consistency of the author. But this is above 
Beaumont and Fletcher. 

Beaumont and Fletcher 195 

Act ii. Sir Roger's speech : — 

Did I for this consume my quarters in meditations, vows, and 
woo'd her in heroical epistles ? Did I expound the Owl, and 
undertake, with labour and expense, the recollection of those 
thousand pieces, consum'd in cellars and tobacco-shops, of that 
our honour'd Englishman, Nic. Broughton ? &c. 

Strange, that neither Mr. Theobald, nor Mr. Seward, 
should have seen that this mock heroic speech is in full- 
mouthed blank verse ! Had they seen this, they would 
have seen that 'quarters' is a substitution of the players 
for 'quires' or 'squares,' (that is) of paper : — 

Consume my quires in meditations, vows. 
And woo'd her in heroical epistles. 

They ought, likewise, to have seen that the abbreviated 
*Ni. Br.' of the text was properly 'Mi. Dr.' — and that 
Michael Drayton, not Nicholas Broughton, is here ridiculed 
for his poem The Owl and his Heroical Epistles. 
lb. Speech of Younger Loveless : — 

Fill him some wine. Thou dost not see me mov'd, &c. 

These Editors ought to have learnt, that scarce an in- 
stance occurs in B. and F. of a long speech not in metre. 
This is plain staring blank verse. 


I CANNOT but think that in a country conquered by a 
nobler race than the natives, and in which the latter 
became villeins and bondsmen, this custom, lex merchetce, 
may have been introduced for wise purposes, — as of im- 
proving the breed, lessening the antipathy of different 
races, and producing a new bond of relationship between 
the lord and the tenant, who, as the eldest bom, would, 
at least, have a chance of being, and a probability of being 
thought, the lord's child. In the West Indies it cannot 
have these effects, because the mulatto is marked by 
nature different from the father, and because there is no 
bond, no law, no custom, but of mere debauchery. 1815. 


Notes on 

Act i. sc. I. Rutilio's speech : — 

Yet if you play not fair play, &c. 

Evidently to be transposed and read thus : — 

Yet if you play not fair, above-board too, 
I'll tell you what — 

I've a foolish engine here : — I say no more — 
But if your Honour's guts are not enchanted — 

Licentious as the comic metre of B. and F. is, — a far more 
lawless, and yet far less happy, imitation of the rhythm 
of animated talk in real life tiian Massinger's — still it is 
made worse than it really is by ignorance of the halves, 
thirds, and two- thirds of a line which B. and F. adopted 
from the Itahan and Spanish dramatists. Thus in Rutilio's 
speech : — 

Though I confess 

Any man would desire to have her, and by any means, &c. 

Correct the whole passage — 

Though I confess 

Any man would 

Desire to have her, and by any means, 

At any rate too, yet this common hangman 

That hath whipt off a thousand maids' heads already — 

That he should glean the harvest, sticks in my stomach ! 

In all comic metres the gulping of short syllables, and the 
abbreviation of syllables ordinarily long by the rapid 
pronunciation of eagerness and vehemence, are not so 
much a license, as a law, — a faithful copy of nature, and 
let them be read characteristically, the times will be found 
nearly equal. Thus the three words marked above make 
a choriamhus — u u — , or perhaps a pceon primus — u u u ; 
a dactyl, by virtue of comic rapidity, being only equal to 
an iambus when distinctly pronounced. I have no doubt 
that all B. and F.'s works might be safely corrected by 
attention to this rule, and that the editor is entitled to 
transpositions of all kinds, and to not a few omissions. 
For the rule of the metre once lost — what was to restrain 
the actors from interpolation > 

Beaumont and Fletcher 197 


Act i. sc. 2. Charles's speech : — 

— For what concerns tillage. 
Who better can deliver it than Virgil 
In his Georgicks ? and to cure your herds, 
His Bucolicks is a master-piece. 

Fletcher was too good a scholar to fall into so gross a 
blunder, as Messrs. Sympson and Colman suppose. I read 
the passage thus : 

— For what concerns tillage, 
Who better can deliver it than Virgil, 
In his Gdorgicks, or to cure your herds ; 
(His Bucolicks are a master-piece.) But when, &c. 

Jealous of Virgil's honour, he is afraid lest, by referring to 
the Georgics alone, he might be understood as under- 
valuing the preceding work. 'Not that I do not admire 
the Bucolics, too, in their way : — But when, &c.' 
Act iii. sc. 3. Charles's speech : — 

— She has a face looks like a story ; 
The story of the heavens looks very like her. 

Seward reads 'glory;' and Theobald quotes from 
Phil aster — 

That reads the story of a woman's face. — 

I can make sense of this passage as little as Mr. Seward ; 
— the passage from Philaster is nothing to the purpose. 
Instead of * a story,' I have sometimes thought of proposing 

lb. Angelina's speech : — 

— You're old and dim. Sir, 
And the shadow of the earth eclips'd your judgment. 

Inappropriate to Angellina, but one of the finest lines 
in our language. 

Act iv. sc. 3. Charles's speech : — 

And lets the serious part of life run by 

As thin neglected sand, whiteness of name. 

You must be mine, &c. 

Seward's note, and reading — 

— Whiteness of name. 
You must be mine I 

198 Notes on 

Nonsense ! 'Whiteness of name' is in apposition to 
'the serious part of Ufe/ and means a deservedly pure 
reputation. The following line — 'You must be mine!' 
means — 'Though I do not enjoy you to-day, I shall here- 
after, and without reproach. ' 


Act iv. sc. 7. Amaranta's speech : — 

And still I push'd him on, as he had been coming. 

Perhaps the true word is 'conning,' that is, learning, or 
reading, and therefore inattentive. 


Act i. Valentine's speech : — 

One without substance, &c. 

The present text, and that proposed by Seward, are equally 
vile. I have endeavoured to make the lines sense, though 
the whole is, I suspect, incurable except by bold con- 
jectural reformation. I would read thus : — 

One without substance of herself, that's woman ; 
Without the pleasure of her life, that's wanton ; 
Tho' she be young, forgetting it ; tho' fair. 
Making her glass the eyes of honest men, 
Not her own admiration, 

'That's wanton,' or, 'that is to say, wantonness.* 
Act ii. Valentine's speech : — 

Of half-a-crown a week for pins and puppets — 

As there is a syllable wanting in the measure here. Seward. 

A syllable wanting ! Had this Seward neither ears nor 
fingers ? The line is a more than usually regular iambic 

With one man satisfied, with one rein guided ; 

With one faith, one content, one bed ; 

Aged, she makes the wife, preserves the fame and issue ; 

A widow is. &c. 

Beaumont and Fletcher 199 

Is 'apaid' — contented — too obsolete for B. and F. ? If 
not, we might read it thus : — 

Content with one faith, with one bed apaid. 

She makes the wife, preserves the fame and issue ; — 

Or it may be — 

— with one breed apaid — 

that is, satisfied with one set of children, in opposition to — 

A widow is a Christmas-box, &c. 

Colman's note on Seward's attempt to put this play into 

The editors, and their contemporaries in general, were 
ignorant of any but the regular iambic verse. A study of 
the Aristophanic and Plautine metres would have enabled 
them to reduce B. and F. throughout into metre, except 
where prose is really intended. 


Act i. sc. I. Second Ambassador's speech : — 

— When your angers, 
Like so many brother billows, rose together, 
And, curling up your foaming crests, defied, &c. 

This worse than superfluous 'like' is very like an inter- 
polation of some matter of fact critic — all pus, prose atque 
venemim. The 'your' in the next hne, instead of 'their,' 
is likewise yours, Mr. Critic ! 

Act ii. sc. I. Timon's speech : — 

Another of a new way will be look'd at. — 

We must suspect the poets wrote, 'of a new day.' So immedi- 
ately after, 

Time may 

For all his wisdom, yet give us a day. 

Seward's Note. 

For this very reason I more than suspect the contrary, 
lb. sc. 3. Speech of Leucippe : — 

I'll put her into action for a wastcoat. — 
What we call a riding-habit, — some mannish dress. 

200 Notes on 


Act iv. Masque of beasts : — 

— This goodly tree, 
An usher that still grew before his lady, 
Wither'd at root : this, for he could not woo, 
A grumbling lawyer : &c. 

Here must have been omitted a line rhyming to 'tree ;* 
and the words of the next Une have been transposed : — 

— This goodly tree. 
Which leafless, and obscur'd with moss you see, 
An usher this, that 'fore his lady grew, 
Wither'd at root : this, for he could not woo, &c. 


It is well worthy of notice, and yet has not been, I believe, 
noticed hitherto, what a marked difference there exists in 
the dramatic writers of the Elizabetho-Jacobasan age — 
(Mercy on me ! what a phrase for 'the writers during the 
reigns of Elizabeth and James L !') — in respect of their 
political opinions. Shakspeare, in this as in all other 
things, himself and alone, gives the permanent politics of 
human nature, and the only predilection, which appears, 
shews itself in his contempt of mobs and the populacy. 
Massinger is a decided Whig ; — Beaumont and Fletcher 
high-flying, passive-obedience Tories. The Spanish dra- 
matists furnished them with this, as with many other 
ingredients. By the by, an accurate and familiar acquaint- 
ance with all the productions of the Spanish stage pre- 
viously to 1620, is an indispensable qualification for an 
editor of B. and F, ; — and with this qualification a most 
interesting and instructive edition might be given. This 
edition of Colman's (Stockdale 181 1,) is below criticism. 

In metre, B. and F. are inferior to Shakspeare, on the 
one hand, as expressing the poetic part of the drama, and 
to Massinger, on the other, in the art of reconciling metre 
with the natural rhythm of conversation, — in which, 
indeed, Massinger is unrivalled. Read him aright, and 
measure by time, not syllables, and no lines can be more 
legitimate, — none in which the substitution of equipollent 

Beaumont and Fletcher 201 

feet, and the modifications by emphasis, are managed with 
such exquisite judgment. B. and F. are fond of the 
twelve syllable (not Alexandrine) line, as — 

Too many fears 'tis thought too : and to nourish those — 

This has, often, a good effect, and is one of the varieties 
most common in Shakspeare. 

Act iii. Old Woman's speech : — 

— I fear he will knock my 
Brains out for lying. 

Mr. Seward discards the words 'for lying,' because 'most 
of the things spoke of Estifania are true, with only a little 
exaggeration, and because they destroy all appearance of 
measure.' Colman's note. 

Mr. Seward had his brains out. The humour lies in 
Estifania's having ordered the Old Woman to tell these 
tales of her ; for though an intriguer, she is not represented 
as other than chaste ; and as to the metre, it is perfectly 

Marg. As you love me, give way. 

Leon, It shall be better, I will give none, madam, &c. 

The meaning is : 'It shall be a better way, first ; — as it 
is, I will not give it, or any that you in your present mood 
would wish.' 


Act i. Speech of Melitus : — 

Whose insolence and never yet match'd pride 
Can by no character be well express' d. 
But in her only name, the proud Erota. 

Colman's note. 

The poet intended no allusion to the word 'Erota* 
itself ; but says that her very name, 'the proud Erota,' 

202 Notes on 

became a character and adage ; as we say, a Quixote or a 
Brutus : so to say an 'Erota,' expressed female pride and 
insolence of beauty. 

lb. Speech of Antinous : — 

Of my peculiar honours, not deriv'd 

From successary, but purchas'd with my blood. — 

The poet doubtless wrote 'successry/ which, though 
not adopted in our language, would be, on many occasions, 
as here, a much more significant phrase than ancestry. 


Act i. sc. I. Dinant's speech : — 

Are you become a patron too ? 'Tis a new one, 
No more on't, &c. 

Seward reads : — 

Are you become a patron too ? How long 

Have you been conning this speech ? 'Tis a new one, &c. 

If conjectural emendation, hke this, be allowed, we might 
venture to read : — 


Are you become a patron to a new tune ? 

Are you become a patron ? 'Tis a new tune. 

Din. Thou wouldst not willingly 
Live a protested coward, or be call'd one ? 
Cler. Words are but words. 
Din. Nor wouldst thou take a blow ? 

Seward's note. 

O miserable ! Dinant sees through Cleremont's gravity, 
and the actor is to explain it. 'Words are but words/ is 
the last struggle of affected morality. 


Act i. sc. 3. 

It is a real trial of charity to read this scene with tolerable 
temper towards Fletcher. So very slavisli — so reptile — 

Beaumont and Fletcher 203 

are the feelings and sentiments represented as duties. And 
yet remember he was a bishop's son, and the duty to God 
was the supposed basis. 

Personals, including body, house, home, and religion ; 
— property, subordination, and inter-community ; — these 
are the fundamentals of society. I mean here, religion 
negatively taken, — so that the person be not compelled to 
do or utter, in relation of the soul to God, what would be, 
in that person, a lie ; — such as to force a man to go to 
church, or to swear that he believes what he does not 
believe. Religion, positively taken, may be a great and 
useful privilege, but cannot be a right, — were it for this 
only that it cannot be pre-defined. The ground of this 
distinction between negative and positive religion, as a 
social right, is plain. No one of my fellow-citizens is 
encroached on by my not declaring to him what I believe 
respecting the super-sensual ; but should every man be 
entitled to preach against the preacher, who could hear 
any preacher ? Now it is different in respect of loyalty. 
There we have positive rights, but not negative rights ; — 
for every pretended negative would be in effect a positive ; 
— as if a soldier had a right to keep to himself, whether 
he would, or would not, fight. Now, no one of these 
fundamentals can be rightfully attacked, except when the 
guardian of it has abused it to subvert one or more of the 
rest. The reason is, that the guardian, as a fluent, is le^s 
than the permanent which he is to guard. He is the 
temporary and mutable mean, and derives his whole value 
from the end. In short, as robbery is not high treason, so 
neither is every unjust act of a king the converse. All 
must be attacked and endangered. Why ? Because the 
king, as a. to A., is a mean to A. or subordination, in a far 
higher sense than a proprietor, as 6. to B. is a mean to B. 
or property. 

Act ii. sc. 2. Claudia's speech : — 

Chimney-pieces 1 &c. 

The whole of this speech seems corrupt ; and if accu- 
rately printed, — that is, if the same in all the prior editions, 
irremediable but by bold conjecture. 'Till my tackle,* 
should be, I think, while, &c. 

Act iii. sc. I. B. and F. always write as if virtue or 
goodness were a sort of talisman, or strange something, 

204 Notes on 

that might be lost without the least fault on the part of the 
owner. In short their chaste ladies value their chastity 
as a material thing, — not as an act or state of being ; and 
this mere thing being imaginary, no wonder that all their 
women are represented with the minds of strumpets, 
except a few irrational humorists, far less capable of ex- 
citing our sympathy than a Hindoo, who has had a bason 
of cow-broth thrown over him ; — for this, though a debas- 
ing superstition, is still real, and we might pity the poor 
wretch, though we cannot help despising him. But B. and 
F.'s Lucinas are clumsy fictions. It is too plain that the 
authors had no one idea of chastity as a virtue, but only 
such a conception as a blind man might have of the power 
of seeing, by handHng an ox's eye. In The Queen of 
Corinth, indeed, they talk differently ; but it is all talk, 
and nothing is real in it but the dread of losing a reputation. 
Hence the frightful contrast between their women (even 
those who are meant for virtuous) and Shakspeare's. So, 
for instance. The Maid in the Mill : — a woman must not 
merely have grown old in brothels, but have chuckled over 
every abomination committed in them with a rampant 
sympathy of imagination, to have had her fancy so drunk 
with the minuticB of lechery as this icy chaste virgin evinces 
hers to have been. 

It would be worth while to note how many of these plays 
are founded on rapes, — how many on incestuous passions, 
and how many on mere lunacies. Then their virtuous 
women are either crazy superstitions of a merely bodily 
negation of having been acted on, or strumpets in their 
imaginations and wishes, or, as in this Maid in the Mill, 
both at the same time. In the men, the love is merely 
lust in one direction, — exclusive preference of one object. 
The tyrant's speeches are mostly taken from the mouths 
of indignant denouncers of the t5n-ant's character, with 
the substitution of T for 'he,' and the omission of the 
prefatory 'he acts as if he thought' so and so. The only 
feelings they can possibly excite are disgust at the Aeciuses, 
if regarded as sane loyalists, or compassion, if considered 
as Bedlamites. So much for their tragedies. But even 
their comedies are, most of them, disturbed by the fantas- 
ticalness, or gross caricature, of the persons or incidents. 
There are few characters that you can really like, — (even 
though you should have erased from your mind all the 

Beaumont and Fletcher 205 

filth which bespatters the most Ukeable of them, as Piniero 
in The Island Princess for instance,) — scarcely one whom 
you can love. How different this from Shakspeare, who 
makes one have a sort of sneaking affection even for his 
Barnardines ; — whose very lagos and Richards are awful, 
and, by the counteracting power of profound intellects, 
rendered fearful rather than hateful ; — and even the ex- 
ceptions, as Goneril and Regan, are proofs of superlative 
judgment and the finest moral tact, in being left utter 
monsters, mdla virtiUe redeniptcB, and in being kept out of 
sight as much as possible, — they being, indeed, only means 
for the excitement and deepening of noblest emotions 
towards the Lear, Cordelia, &c. and employed with the 
severest economy ! But even Shakspeare's grossness — 
that which is really so, independently of the increase in 
modern times of vicious associations with things indifferent 
— (for there is a state of manners conceivable so pure, that 
the language of Hamlet at Ophelia's feet might be a harm- 
less rallying, or playful teazing, of a shame that would 
exist in Paradise) — at the worst, how diverse in kind is it 
from Beaumont and Fletcher's ! In Shakspeare it is the 
mere generalities of sex, mere words for the most part, 
seldom or never distinct images, all head-work, and fancy- 
drolleries ; there is no sensation supposed in the speaker. 
I need not proceed to contrast this with B. and F. 


This is, perhaps, the most energetic of Fletcher's tragedies. 
He evidently aimed at a new Richard III. in Rollo ; — but 
as in all his other imitations of Shakspeare, he was not 
philosopher enough to bottom his original. Thus, in 
Rollo, he has produced a mere personification of outrageous 
wickedness, with no fundamental characteristic impulses 
to make either the tyrant's words or actions philosophi- 
cally intelligible. Hence the most pathetic situations 
border on the horrible, and what he meant for the terrible, 
is either hateful, ro fxicrirov^ or ludicrous. The scene of 
Baldwin's sentence in the third act is probably the grandest 
working of passion in all B. and F.'s dramas ; — but the 
very magnificence of filial affection given to Edith, in this 

2o6 Notes on 

noble scene, renders the after scene — (in imitation of one 
of the least Shakspearian of all Shakspeare's works, if it 
be his, the scene between Richard and Lady Anne,) — in 
which Edith is yielding to a few words and tears, not only 
unnatural, but disgusting. In Shakspeare, Lady Anne is 
described as a weak, vain, very woman throughout. 
Act i. sc. I. 

Gis. He is indeed the perfect character 
Of a good man, and so his actions speak him. 

This character of Aubrey, and the whole spirit of this 
and several other plays of the same authors, are interesting 
as traits of the morals which it was fashionable to teach 
in the reigns of James 1. and his successor, who died a 
martyr to them. Stage, pulpit, law, fashion, — all con- 
spired to enslave the realm. Massinger's plays breathe 
the opposite spirit ; Shakspeare's the spirit of wisdom 
which is for all ages. By the by, the Spanish dramatists 
— Calderon, in particular, — had some influence in this 
respect, of romantic loyalty to the greatest monsters, as 
well as in the busy intrigues of B. and F.'s plays. 


Act ii. sc. I. Belleur's speech :— 

— That wench, methinks, 
If I were but well set on, for she is a fable. 
If I were but hounded right, and one to teach me. 

Sympson reads 'affable,' which Colman rejects, and says, 
'the next line seems to enforce' the reading in the text. 

Pity, that the editor did not explain wherein the sense, 
'seemingly enforced by the next line,' consists. May the 
true word be 'a sable,' that is, a black fox, hunted for its 
precious fur ? Or 'at-able,' — as we now say, — 'she is 
come-at-able ?' 

Beaumont and Fletcher 207 

Act iv. sc. I. Alphonso's speech : — 

BetAvixt the cold bear and the raging lion 
Lies my safe way. 

Seward's note and alteration to — 

'Twixt the cold bears, far from the raging lion — 

This Mr. Seward is a blockhead of the provoking species. 
In his itch for correction, he forgot the words — 'Hes my 
safe way !' The Bear is the extreme pole, and thither 
he would travel over the space contained between it and 
'the raging lion.' 


Act iv. sc. 2. 

Alinda's interview with her father is lively, and happily 
hit off ; but this scene with Roderigo is truly excellent. 
Altogether, indeed, this play holds the first place in B. and 
F.'s romantic entertainments, Lusispiele, which collectively 
are their happiest performances, and are only inferior to the 
romance of Shakspeare in the As You Like It, Twelfth 
Night, &c. 

Alin. To-day you shall wed Sorrow, 
And Repentance will come to-morrow. 

Read 'Pentience,' or else — 

Repentance, she will come to-morrow. 


Act ii. sc. I. 

Merione's speech. Had the scene of this tragi-comedy 
been laid in Hindostan instead of Corinth, and the gods 
here addressed been the Veeshnoo and Co. of the Indian 
Pantheon, this rant would not have been much amiss. 

2o8 Notes on 

In respect of style and versification, this play and the 
following of Bonduca may be taken as the best, and yet 
as characteristic, specimens of Beaumont and Fletcher's 
dramas. I particularly instance the first scene of the 
Bonduca. Take Shakspeare's Richard II., and having 
selected some one scene of about the same number of lines, 
and consisting mostly of long speeches, compare it with the 
first scene in Bonduca, — not for the idle purpose of finding 
out which is the better, but in order to see and under- 
stand the difference. The latter, that of B. and F., you 
will find a well arranged bed of flowers, each having its 
separate root, and its position determined aforehand by the 
will of the gardener, — each fresh plant a fresh volition. In 
the former you see an Indian figtree, as described by 
Milton; — all is growth, evolution, yiveffig ; — each line, 
each word almost, begets the following, and the will of 
the writer is an interfusion, a continuous agency, and not 
a series of separate acts. Shakspeare is the height, breadth, 
and depth of Genius : Beaumont and Fletcher the excellent 
mechanism, in juxta-position and succession, of talent. 


Why have the dramatists of the times of Elizabeth, James 
I. and the first Charles become almost obsolete, with the 
exception of Shakspeare ? Why do they no longer belong 
to the English, being once so popular ? And why is Shak- 
speare an exception ? — One thing, among fifty, necessary 
to the full solution is, that they all employed poetry and 
poetic diction on unpoetic subjects, both characters and 
situations, especially in their comedy. Now Shakspeare 
is all, all ideal, — of no time, and therefore for all times. 
Read, for instance. Marine's panegyric in the first scene 
of this play : — 

The eminent court, to them that can be wise, 
And fasten on her blessings, is a sun, &c. 

What can be more unnatural and inappropriate — (not 
only is, but must be felt as such) — than such poetry in 
the mouth of a silly dupe ? In short, the scenes are mock 
dialogues, in which the poet solus plays the ventriloquist, 
but cannot keep down his own way of expressing himself. 

Beaumont and Fletcher 209 

Heavy complaints have been made respecting the trans- 
posing of the old plays by Gibber ; but it never occurred 
to these critics to ask, how it came that no one ever at- 
tempted to transpose a comedy of Shakspeare's. 


Act i. Speech of Seleucus : — 

Altho' he be my enemy, should any 
Of the gay flies that buz about the court, 
Sit to catch trouts i' the summer, tell me so, 
I durst, &c. 

Colman's note. 

Pshaw ! 'Sit' is either a misprint for 'set,' or the old and 
still provincial word for 'set/ as the participle passive of 
'seat' or 'set.' I have heard an old Somersetshire gardener 
say : — " Look, Sir ! I set these plants here ; those yonder 
I sit yesterday." 

Act ii. Speech of Arcadius : — 

Nay, some will swear they love their mistress. 
Would hazard lives and fortunes, &c. 

Read thus : — 

Nay, some will swear they love their mistress so. 
They would hazard lives and fortunes to preserve 
One of her hairs brighter than Berenice's, 
Or young Apollo's ; and yet, after this, &c. 

'They would hazard' — furnishes an anapaest for an iambus. 
'And 5^et,' which must be read, anyei, is an instance of the 
enclitic force in an accented monosyllable. 'And yet,' 
is a complete iambus ; but anyet is, like spirit, a dibrach 
o u, trocheized, however, by the arsis or first accent 
damping, though not extinguishing, the second. 


Act i. Oldcraft's speech : 

I'm arm'd at all points, &c. 
It would be very easy to restore all this passage to metre, 
by supplying a sentence of four syllables, which the reason- 

2IO Notes on 

ing almost demands, and by correcting the grammar. 
JRead thus : — 

Arm'd at all points 'gainst treachery, I hold 

My humour firm. If, living, I can see thee 

Thrive by thy wits, I shall have the more courage, 

Dying, to trust thee with my lands. If not, 

The best wit, I can hear of, carries them. 

For since so many in my time and knowledge. 

Rich children of the city, have concluded 

For lack of wrt in beggary, I'd rather 

Make a wise stranger my executor. 

Than a fool son my heir, and have my lands call'd 

After my wit than name : and that's my nature ! 

lb. Oldcraft's speech : — 

To prevent which I have sought out a match for her. — 


Which to prevent I've sought a match out for her. 

lb. Sir Gregory's speech : — 

Do you think 

I'll have any of the wits hang upon me after I am married once ? 

Read it thus : — 

Do you think 
That I'll have any of the wits to hang 
Upon me after I am married once ? 

and afterwards — 

Is it a fashion in London 
To marry a woman, and to never see her ? 

The superfluous 'to' gives it the Sir Andrew Ague-cheek 

Act ii. Speech of Albertus : — 

But, Sir, 
By my life, I vow to take assurance from you, 
That right hand never more shall strike my son, 

:»: « * * 4: « 

Chop his hand off ! 

In this (as, indeed, in all other respects ; but most in this) 
it is that Shakspeare is so incomparably superior to Fletcher 

Beaumont and Fletcher 211 

and his friend, — in judgment ! What can be conceived 
more unnatural and motiveless than this brutal resolve ? 
How is it possible to feel the least interest in Albertus 
afterwards ? or in Cesario after his conduct ? 


Ox comparing the prison scene of Palamon and Arcite, 
Act ii. sc. 2, with the dialogue between the same speakers, 
Act i. sc. 2, I can scarcely retain a doubt as to the first act's 
having been written by Shakspeare. Assuredly it was not 
written by B. and F. I hold Jonson more probable than 
either of these two. 

The main presumption, however, for Shakspeare's share 
in this play rests on a point, to which the sturdy critics 
of this edition (and indeed all before them) were blind, — 
that is, the construction of the blank verse, which proves 
beyond all doubt an intentional imitation, if not the proper 
hand, of Shakspeare. Now, whatever improbability there 
is in the former, (which supposes Fletcher conscious of the 
inferiority, the too poematic wmz^s-dramatic nature, of 
his versification, and of which there is neither proof, nor 
likelihood), adds so much to the probabihty of the latter. 
On the other hand, the harshness of many of these very 
passages, a harshness unrelieved by any lyrical inter- 
breathings, and still more the want of profundity in the 
thoughts, keep me from an absolute decision. 

Act i. sc. 3. Emilia's speech : — 

Since his depart, his sports, 

Tho' craving seriousness and skill, &c. 

I conjecture 'unports,' that is, duties or offices of import- 
ance. The flow of the versification in this speech seems 
to demand the trochaic ending — o ; while the text blends 
jingle and hisses to the annoyance of less sensitive ears 
than Fletcher's — not to say, Shakspeare's. 

212 Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher 


Act i. sc. 2. 

This scene from the beginning is prose printed as blank 
verse, down to the line — 

E'en all the valiant stomachs in the court — 

where the verse recommences. This transition from the 
prose to the verse enhances, and indeed forms, the comic 
effect. Lazarillo concludes his soliloquy with a hymn to 
the goddess of plenty. 



There are few families, at present, in the higher and 
middle classes of English society, in which literary topics 
and the productions of the Fine Arts, in some one or other 
of their various forms, do not occasionally take their turn 
in contributing to the entertainment of the social board, 
and the amusement of the circle at the fire side. The ac- 
quisitions and attainments of the intellect ought, indeed, 
to hold a very inferior rank in our estimation, opposed to 
moral worth, or even to professional and specific skill, 
prudence, and industry. But why should they be opposed, 
when they may be made subservient merely by being sub- 
ordinated ? It can rarely happen, that a man of social 
disposition, altogether a stranger to subjects of taste, 
(almost the only ones on which persons of both sexes can 
converse with a common interest) should go through the 
world without at times feeling dissatisfied with himself. 
The best proof of this is to be found in the marked anxiety 
which men, who have succeeded in life without the aid 
of these accomplishments, shew in securing them to their 
children. A young man of ingenuous mind will not wilfully 
deprive himself of any species of respect. He will wish 
to feel himself on a level with the average of the society 
in which he lives, though he may be ambitious of dis- 
tinguishing himself only in his own immediate pursuit 
or occupation. 

Under this conviction, the following Course of Lectures 
was planned. The several titles will best explain the 
particular subjects and purposes of each : but the main 
objects proposed, as the result of all, are the two following. 

I. To convey, in a form best fitted to render them im- 
pressive at the time, and remembered afterwards, rules 
and principles of sound judgment, with a kind and degree 
of connected information, such as the hearers cannot 

214 Prospectus of a 

generally be supposed likely to form, collect, and arrange 
for themselves, by their own unassisted studies. It might 
be presumption to say, that any important part of these 
Lectures could not be derived from books ; but none, I 
trust, in supposing, that the same information could not 
be so surely or conveniently acquired from such books as 
are of commonest occurrence, or with that quantity of time 
and attention which can be reasonably expected, or even 
wisely desired, of men engaged in business and the active 
duties of the world. 

2. Under a strong persuasion that Uttle of read value 
is derived by persons in general from a wide and various 
reading ; but still more deeply convinced as to the actual 
mischief of unconnected and promiscuous reading, and 
that it is sure, in a greater or less degree, to enervate even 
where it does not likewise inflate ; I hope to satisfy many 
an ingenuous mind, seriously interested in its own develop- 
ment and cultivation, how moderate a number of volumes, 
if only they be judiciously chosen, will suffice for the 
attainment of every wise and desirable purpose ; that is, 
in addition to those which he studies for specific and pro- 
fessional purposes. It is saying less than the truth to 
affirm, that an excellent book, (and the remark holds 
almost equally good of a Raphael as of a Milton) is like a 
well chosen and well tended fruit tree. Its fruits are not 
of one season only. With the due and natural intervals, 
we may recur to it year after year, and it wiU supply the 
same nourishment and the same gratification, if only we 
ourselves return to it with the same healthful appetite. 

The subjects of the Lectures are indeed very different, 
but not, (in the strict sense of the term) diverse ; they 
are various, rather than miscellaneous. There is this bond 
of connexion common to them all, — that the mental 
pleasure which they are calculated to excite, is not de- 
pendent on accidents of fashion, place, or age, or the events 
or the customs of the day ; but commensurate with the 
good sense, taste, and feeling, to the cultivation of which 
they themselves so largely contribute, as being all in kind, 
though not all in the same degree, productions of genius. 

What it would be arrogant to promise, I may yet be 
pennitted to hope, — that the execution will prove cor- 
respondent and adequate to the plan. Assuredly, my 
best efiorts have not been wanting so to select and prepare 

Course of Lectures 215 

the materials, that, at the conclusion of the Lectures, an 
attentive auditor, who should consent to aid his future 
recollection by a few notes taken either during each Lecture, 
or soon after, would rarely feel himself, for the time to 
come, excluded, from taking an intelligent interest in any 
general conversation likely to occur in mixed society. 

Syllabus of the Course. 

L January 27, 1818. — On the manners, morals, litera- 
ture, philosophy, religion, and the state of society in 
general, in European Christendom, from the eighth to the 
fifteenth century, (that is from a.d. 700, to a.d. 1400), 
more particularly in reference to England, France, Italy, 
and Germany ; in other words, a portrait of the so-called 
dark ages of Europe. 

IL January 30. — On the tales and metrical romances 
common, for the most part, to England, Germany, and 
the north of France, and on the English songs and ballads, 
continued to the reign of Charles L A few selections will be 
made from the Swedish, Danish, and German languages, 
translated for the purpose by the Lecturer. 

IIL February 3. — Chaucer and Spenser ; of Petrarch ; 
of Ariosto, Pulci, and Boiardo. 

IV. V. VI. February 6, 10, 13. — On the dramatic works 
of Shakspeare. In these Lectures will be comprised the 
substance of Mr. Coleridge's former courses on the same 
subject, enlarged and varied by subsequent study and 

VII. February 17. — On Ben Jonson, Beaumont and 
Fletcher, and Massinger ; with the probable causes of 
the cessation of dramatic poetry in England \^ith Shirley 
and Otway, soon after the restoration of Charles II. 

VIII. February 20. — Of the hfe and all the works of 
Cervantes, but chiefly of his Don Quixote. The ridicule 
of knight errantry shewn to have been but a secondary 
object in the mind of the author, and not the principal 
cause of the delight which the work continues to give to aU 
nations, and under all the revolutions of manners and 

IX. February 24. — On Rabelais, Swift, and Sterne : 
on the nature and constituents of genuine Humour, and 

2i6 Course of Lectures 

on the distinctions of the Humorous from the Witty, the 
Fanciful, the Droll, and the Odd. 

X. February 27. — Of Donne, Dante, and Milton. 

XL March 3. — On the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, 
and on the romantic use of the supernatural in poetry, 
and in works of fiction not poetical. On the conditions 
and regulations under which such books may be employed 
advantageously in the earlier periods of education. 

XII. March 6. — On tales of witches, apparitions, &c. 
as distinguished from the magic and magicians of Asiatic 
origin. The probable sources of the former, and of the 
belief in them in certain ages and classes of men. Criteria 
by which mistaken and exaggerated facts may be dis- 
tinguished from absolute falsehood and imposture. Lastly, 
the causes of the terror and interest which stories of ghosts 
and witches inspire, in early life at least, whether believed 
or not. 

XIII. March 10. — On colour, sound, and form in Nature, 
as connected with poesy : the word " Poesy " used as the 
generic or class term, including poetry, music, painting, 
statuary, and ideal architecture, as its species. The re- 
ciprocal relations of poetry and philosophy to each other ; 
and of both to religion, and the moral sense. 

XIV. March 13. — On the corruptions of the English 
language since the reign of Queen Anne in our style of 
writing prose. A few easy rules for the attainment of a 
manly, unaffected, and pure language, in our genuine 
mother tongue, whether for the purpose of writing, oratory, 
or conversation. 


General Character of the Gothic Mind in 
the Middle Ages. 

Mr. Coleridge began by treating of the races of mankind 
as descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and therein 
of the early condition of man in his antique form. He 
then dwelt on the pre-eminence of the Greeks in Art and 
Philosophy, and noticed the suitableness of polytheism 
to small insulated states, in which patriotism acted as 

1 From Mr. Green's note taken at the delivery. Ed, 

Lecture I. 217 

a substitute for religion, in destroying or suspending self. 
Afterwards, in consequence of the extension of the Roman 
empire, some universal or common spirit became necessary 
for the conservation of the vast body, and this common 
spirit was, in fact, produced in Christianity. The causes 
of the decline of the Roman empire were in operation long 
before the time of the actual overthrow ; that overthrow 
had been foreseen by many eminent Romans, especially 
by Seneca. In fact, there was under the empire an Italian 
and a German party in Rome, and in the end the latter 

He then proceeded to describe the generic character of 
the Northern nations, and defined it as an independence 
of the whole in the freedom of the individual, noticing 
their respect for women, and their consequent chivalrous 
spirit in war ; and how evidently the participation in the 
general council laid the foundation of the representative 
form of government, the only rational mode of preserving 
individual liberty in opposition to the Ucentious democracy 
of the ancient republics. 

He called our attention to the peculiarity of their art, 
and showed how it entirely depended on a symbolical 
expression of the infinite, — which is not vastness, nor 
immensity, nor perfection, but whatever cannot be cir- 
cumscribed within the Hmits of actual, sensuous being. In 
the ancient art, on the contrary, every thing was finite and 
material. Accordingly, sculpture was not attempted by 
the Gothic races till the ancient specimens were discovered, 
whilst painting and architecture were of native growth 
amongst them. In the earliest specimens of the paintings 
of modern ages, as in those of Giotto and his associates in 
the cemetery at Pisa, this complexity, variety, and sym- 
bolical character are evident, and are more fully developed 
in the mightier works of Michel Angelo and Raffael. The 
contemplation of the works of antique art excites a feeling 
of elevated beauty, and exalted notions of the human self ; 
but the Gothic architecture impresses the beholder with 
a sense of self-annihilation ; he becomes, as it were, a part 
of the work contemplated. An endless complexity and 
variety are united into one whole, the plan of which is not 
distinct from the execution. A Gothic cathedral is the 
petrefaction of our religion. The only work of truly 
modem sculpture is the Moses of Michel Angelo. 

2i8 Course of Lectures 

The Northern nations were prepared by their own 
previous rehgion for Christianity ; they, for the most part 
received it gladly, and it took root as in a native soil. The 
deference to woman, characteristic of the Gothic races, 
combined itself with devotion in the idea of the Virgin 
Mother, and gave rise to many beautiful associations. ^ 

Mr. C. remarked how Gothic an instrument in origin 
and character the organ was. 

He also enlarged on the influence of female character 
on our education, the first impressions of our childhood 
being derived from women. Am.ongst oriental nations, 
he said, the only distinction was between lord and slave. 
With the antique Greeks, the will of every one conflicting 
with the will of all, produced licentiousness ; with the 
modem descendants from the northern stocks, both these 
extremes were shut out, to reappear mixed and condensed 
into this principle or temper ; — submission, but with free 
choice, illustrated in chivalrous devotion to women as such, 
in attachment to the sovereign, &c. 


General Character of the Gothic Literature 
and Art. 

In my last lecture I stated that the descendants of Japhet 
and Shem peopled Europe and Asia, fulfilling in their 
distribution the prophecies of Scripture, while the descen- 
dants of Ham passed into Africa, there also actually 
verifying the interdiction pronounced against them. The 
Keltic and Teutonic nations occupied that part of Europe, 
which is now France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, 
&c. They were in general a hardy race, possessing great 
fortitude, and capable of great endurance. The Romans 
slowly conquered the more southerly portion of their 
tribes, and succeeded only by their superior arts, their 
policy, and better discipline. After a time, when the 
Goths, — to use the name of the noblest and most historical 

1 The reader may compare the last two paragraphs with the lirst of Schlegel's Pre- 
lections on Dramatic Art and Literature — Vol. i. /»/ 10-16, 2nd edit. — and with 
Schelling Ueber das Verhdltniss der bildcnden Kiinste, p. 377 ; though the resem- 
blance in thought is but general. 

3 From Mr. William Hammond's note taken at th« delivery. Ed. 

Lecture II. 219 

of the Teutonic tribes, — had acquired some knowledge of 
these arts from mixing with their conquerors, they invaded 
the Roman territories. The hardy habits, the steady 
perseverance, the better faith of the enduring Goth rendered 
him too formidable an enemy for the corrupt Roman, who 
was more inclined to purchase the subjection of his enemy, 
than to go through the suffering necessary to secure it. 
The conquest of the Romans gave to the Goths the Christian 
religion as it was then existing in Italy ; and the light and 
graceful building of Grecian, or Roman-Greek order, 
became singularly combined with the massy architecture 
of the Goths, as wild and varied as the forest vegetation 
which it resembled. The Greek art is beautiful. When 
I enter a Greek Church, my eye is charmed, and my mind 
elated ; I feel exalted, and proud that I am a man. But 
the Gothic art is sublime. On entering a cathedral, I 
am filled with devotion and with awe ; I am lost to the 
actualities that surround me, and my whole being expands 
into the infinite ; earth and air, nature and art, all swell 
up into eternity, and the only sensible impression left, is 
'that I am nothing ! ' This religion, while it tended to 
soften the manners of the Northern tribes, was at the same 
time highly congenial to their nature. The Goths are 
free from the stain of hero worship. Gazing on their 
rugged mountains, surrounded by impassable forests, 
accustomed to gloomy seasons, they lived in the bosom 
of nature, and worshipped an invisible and unknown deity. 
Firm in his faith, domestic in his habits, the life of the Goth 
was simple and dignified, yet tender and affectionate. 

The Greeks were remarkable for complacency and com- 
pletion ; they delighted in whatever pleased the eye ; to 
them it was not enough to have merely the idea of a 
divinity, they must have it placed before them, shaped 
in the most perfect symmetry, and presented with the 
nicest judgment : and if we look upon any Greek produc- 
tion of art, the beauty of its parts, and the harmony of their 
union, the complete and complacent effect of the whole, 
are the striking characteristics. It is the same in their 
poetry. In Homer you have a poem perfect in its form, 
whether originally so, or from the labour of after critics, 
I know not ; his descriptions are pictures brought vividly 
before 570U, and as far as the eye and understanding are 
concerned, I am indeed gratified. But if I wish my feelings 

220 Course of Lectures 

to be affected, if I wish my heart to be touched, if I wish 
to melt into sentiment and tenderness, I must turn to the 
heroic songs of the Goths, to the poetry of the middle ages. 
The worship of statues in Greece had, in a civil sense, its 
advantage, and disadvantage; advantage, in promoting 
statuary and the arts ; disadvantage, in bringing their 
gods too much on a level with human beings, and thence 
depriving them of their dignity, and gradually giving 
rise to scepticism and ridicule. But no statue, no artificial 
emblem, could satisfy the Northman's mind ; the dark 
wild imagery of nature which surrounded him, and the 
freedom of his hfe, gave his mind a tendency to the infinite, 
so that he found rest in that which presented no end, and 
derived satisfaction from that which was indistinct. 

We have few and uncertain vestiges of Gothic literature 
till the time of Theodoric, who encouraged his subjects 
to write, and who made a collection of their poems. These 
consisted chiefly of heroic songs, sung at the Court ; for 
at that time this was the custom. Charlemagne, in the 
beginning of the ninth century, greatly encouraged letters, 
and made a further collection of the poems of his time, 
among which were several epic poems of great merit ; or 
rather in strictness there was a vast cycle of heroic poems, 
or minstrelsies, from and out of which separate poems 
were composed. The form of poetry was, however, for 
the most part, the metrical romance and heroic tale. 
Charlemagne's army, or a large division of it, was utterly 
destroyed in the Pyrenees, when returning from a successful 
attack on the Arabs of Navarre and Arragon ; yet the 
name of Roncesvalles became famous in the songs of the 
Gothic poets. The Greeks and Romans would not have 
done this ; they would not have recorded in heroic verse 
the death and defeat of their fellow-countrymen. But 
the Goths, firm in their faith, with a constancy not to be 
shaken, celebrated those brave men who died for their 
religion and their country ! What, though they had been 
defeated, they died without fear, as they had lived without 
reproach ; they left no stain on their names, for they fell 
fighting for their God, their hberty, and their rights ; and 
the song that sang that day's reverse animated them to 
future victory and certain vengeance. 

I must now turn to our great monarch, Alfred, one of 
the most august characters that any age has ever produced ; 

Lecture IL 221 

and when I picture him after the toils of government and 
the dangers of battle, seated by a solitary lamp, translating 
the holy scriptures into the Saxon tongue, — when I reflect 
on his moderation in success, on his fortitude and per- 
severance in difficulty and defeat, and on the wisdom and 
extensive nature of his legislation, I am really at a loss 
which part of this great man's character most to admire. 
Yet above all, I see the grandeur, the freedom, the mildness, 
the domestic unity, the universal character of the middle 
ages condensed into Alfred's glorious institution of the 
trial by jury. I gaze upon it as the immortal symbol of 
that age ; — an age called indeed dark ; — but how could 
that age be considered dark, which solved the difficult 
problem of universal liberty, freed man from the shackles 
of tyranny, and subjected his actions to the decision of 
twelve of his fellow-countrymen ? The liberty of the 
Greeks was a phenomenon, a meteor, which blazed for a 
short time, and then sank into eternal darkness. It was 
a combination of most opposite materials, slavery and 
liberty. Such can neither be happy nor lasting. The 
Goths on the other hand said, You shall be our Emperor ; 
but we must be Princes on our own estates, and over them 
you shall have no power ! The Vassals said to their Prince, 
We will serve you in your wars, and defend your castle ; 
but we must have liberty in our own circle, our cottage, 
our cattle, our proportion of land. The Cities said. We 
acknowledge you for our Emperor ; but we must have 
our walls and our strong holds, and be governed by our 
own laws. Thus all combined, yet all were separate ; all 
served, yet all were free. Such a government could not exist 
in a dark age. Our ancestors may not indeed have been 
deep in the metaphysics of the schools ; they may not have 
^one in the fine arts ; but much knowledge of human 
nature, much practical wisdom must have existed amongst 
them, when this admirable constitution was formed ; and 
I beUeve it is a decided truth, though certainly an awful 
lesson, that nations are not the most happy at the time 
when hterature and the arts flourish the most among them. 
The translations I had promised in my syllabus I shall 
defer to the end of the course, when I shall give a single 
lecture of recitations illustrative of the different ages of 
poetry. There is one Northern tale I will relate, as it is 
one from which Shakspeare derived that strongly marked 

222 Course of Lectures 

and extraordinary scene between Richard III. and the 
Lady Anne. It may not be equal to that in strength and 
genius, but it is, undoubtedly, superior in decorum and 

A Knight had slain a Prince, the lord of a strong castle, 
in combat. He afterAvards contrived to get into the castle, 
where he obtained an interveiw with the Princess's atten- 
dant, whose life he had saved in some encounter ; he told 
her of his love for her mistress, and won her to his interest. 
She then slowly and gradually worked on her mistress's 
mind, spoke of the beauty of his person, the fire of his 
eyes, the sweetness of his voice, his valour in the field, his 
gentleness in the court ; in short, by watching her oppor- 
tunities, she at last fiUed the Princess's soul with this one 
image ; she became restless ; sleep forsook her ; her 
curiosity to see this Knight became strong ; but her maid 
still deferred the interview, tiU at length she confessed she 
was in love with him ; — the Knight is then introduced, 
and the nuptials are quickly celebrated. 

In this age there was a tendency in writers to the droll 
and the grotesque, and in the little dramas which at that 
time existed, there were singular instances of these. It 
was the disease of the age. It is a remarkable fact that 
Luther and Melancthon, the great religious reformers of 
that day, should have strongly recommended, for the 
education of children, dramas, which at present would 
be considered highly indecorous, if not bordering on a 
deeper sin. From one which they particularly recom- 
mended, I wiU give a few extracts ; more I should not 
think it right to do. The play opens with Adam and Eve 
washing and dressing their children to appear before the 
Lord, who is coming from heaven to hear them repeat the 
Lord's Prayer, Belief, &c. In the next scene the Lord ap- 
pears seated like a schoolmaster, with the children stand- 
ing round, when Cain, who is behindhand, and a sad 
pickle, comes running in with a bloody nose and his hat 
on. Adam says, " What, with your hat on ! " Cain then 
goes up to shake hands with the Almighty, when Adam 
says (giving him a cuff), " Ah, would you give your left 
hand to the Lord ? " At length Cain takes his place in 
the class, and it becomes his turn to say the Lord's Prayer. 
At this time the Devil (a constant attendant at that time) 
makes his appearance, and getting behind Cain, whispers 

Lecture III. 223 

in his ear ; instead of the Lord's Prayer, Cain gives it so 
changed by the transposition of the words, that the meaning 
is reversed ; yet this is so artfully done by the author, 
that it is exactly as an obstinate child would answer, who 
knows his lesson, yet does not choose to say it. In the last 
scene, horses in rich trappings and carriages covered with 
gold are introduced, and the good children are to ride in 
them and be Lord Mayors, Lords, &c. ; Cain and the bad 
ones are to be made cobblers and tinkers, and only to 
associate with such. 

This, with numberless others, was written by Hans 
Sachs. Our simple ancestors, firm in their faith, and pure 
in their morals, were only amused by these pleasantries, 
as they seemed to them, and neither they nor the reformers 
feared their having any influence hostile to religion. 
When I was many years back in the north of Germany, 
there were several innocent superstitions in practice. 
Among others at Christmas, presents used to be given to 
the children by the parents, and they were delivered on 
Christmas day by a person who personated, and was 
supposed by the children to be, Christ : early on Christmas 
morning he called, knocking loudly at the door, and (having 
received his instructions) left presents for the good and 
a rod for the bad. Those who have since been in Germany 
have found this custom relinquished ; it was considered 
profane and irrational. Yet they have not found the 
children better, nor the mothers more careful of their 
offspring ; they have not found their devotion more 
fervent, their faith more strong, nor their m.orality more 


The Troiihadours — Boccaccio — Petrarch— 
Pulci — Chaucer — Spenser. 

The last Lecture was allotted to an investigation into the 
origin and character of a species of poetry, the least influenced 
of any by the literature of Greece and Rome, — that in 
which the portion contributed by the Gothic conquerors, 

1 See this custom of Kn«cht Rupert more minutely described in Mr. Coleridge's own 
letter from Germany, published in the 2nd vol. of the Friend, p. 320. £d. 

224 Course of Lectures 

the predilections and general tone or habit of thought 
and feeling, brought by our remote ancestors with them 
from the forests of Germany, or the deep dells and rocky 
mountains of Norway, are the most prominent. In the 
present Lecture I must introduce you to a species of poetry, 
which had its birth-place near the centre of Roman glory, 
and in which, as might be anticipated, the influences of 
the Greek and Roman muse are far more conspicuous, — 
as, great, indeed, as the efforts of intentional imitation on 
the part of the poets themselves could render them. But 
happily for us and for their own fame, the intention of 
the writers as men is often at complete variance with the 
genius of the same men as poets. To the force of their 
intention we owe their mythological ornaments, and the 
greater definiteness of their imagery ; and their passion 
for the beautiful, the voluptuous, and the artificial, we 
must in part attribute to the same intention, but in part 
likewise to their natural dispositions and tastes. For the 
same climate and many of the same circumstances were 
acting on them, which had acted on the great classics, 
whom they were endeavouring to imitate. But the love 
of the marvellous, the deeper sensibility, the higher rever- 
ence for womanhood, the characteristic spirit of sentiment 
and courtesy, — these were the heir-looms of nature, which 
still regained the ascendant, whenever the use of the 
living mother-language enabled the inspired poet to appear 
instead of the toilsome scholar. 

From this same union, in which the soul (if I may dare 
so express myself) was Gothic, while the outward forms 
and a majority of the words themselves, were the reUques 
of the Roman, arose the Romance, or romantic language, 
in which the Troubadours or Love-singers of Provence 
sang and v^Tote, and the different dialects of which have 
been modified into the modem Italian, Spanish, and 
Portuguese ; while the language of the Trouveurs, Trou- 
veres, or Norman-French poets, forms the intermediate 
link between the Romance or modified Roman, and the 
Teutonic, including the Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and the 
upper and lower German, as being the modified Gothic. 
And as the northernmost extreme of the Norman-French, 
or that part of the link in which it formed on the Teutonic, 
we must take the Norman-English minstrels and metrical 
romances, from the greater predominance of the Anglo- 

Lecture III. 225 

Saxon Gothic in the derivation of the words. I mean, 
that the language of the EngUsh metrical romance is less 
romanized, and has fewer words, not originally of a northern 
origin, than the same romances in the Norman-French ; 
which is the more striking, because the former were for 
the most part translated from the latter ; the authors of 
which seem to have eminently merited their name of 
Trouveres, or inventors. Thus then we have a chain with 
two rings or staples : — at the southern end there is the 
Roman, or Latin ; at the northern end the Keltic, Teutonic, 
or Gothic ; and the links beginning with the southern end, 
are the Romance, including the Provencal, the Italian, 
Spanish, and Portuguese, with their different dialects, 
then the Norman-French, and lastly the English. 

My object in adverting to the Italian poets, is not so 
much for their own sakes, in which point of view Dante 
and Ariosto alone would have required separate Lectures, 
but for the elucidation of the merits of our countrymen, 
as to what extent we must consider them as fortunate 
imitators of their Italian predecessors, and in what points 
they have the higher claims of original genius. Of Dante, 
I am to speak elsewhere. Of Boccaccio, who has little 
interest as a metrical poet in any respect, and none for 
my present purpose, except, perhaps, as the reputed in- 
ventor or introducer of the octave stanza in his Teseide, 
it will be sufficient to say, that we owe to him the subjects 
of numerous poems taken from his famous tales, the happy 
art of narration, and the still greater merit of a depth and 
fineness in the workings of the passions, in which last 
excellence, as likewise in the wild and imaginative char- 
acter of the situations, his almost neglected romances 
appear to me greatly to excel his far famed Decameron. 
To him, too, we owe the more doubtful merit of having 
introduced into the Italian prose, and by the authority 
of his name and the influence of his example, more or less 
throughout Europe, the long interwoven periods, and 
architectural structure which arose from the very nature 
of their language in the Greek writers, but which already 
in the Latin orators and historians, had betrayed a species 
of effort, a foreign something, which had been superinduced 
on the language, instead of growing out of it ; and which 
was far too alien from that individualizing and confederat- 
ing, yet not blending, character of the North, to become 

226 Course of Lectures 

permanent, although its magnificence and stateliness were 
objects of admiration and occasional imitation. This style 
diminished the control of the writer over the inner feehngs 
of men, and created too great a chasm between the body 
and the life ; and hence especially it was abandoned by 

But lastly, to Boccaccio's sanction we must trace a large 
portion of the mythological pedantry and incongruous 
paganisms, which for so long a period deformed the poetry, 
even of the truest poets. To such an extravagance did 
Boccaccio himself carry this folly, that in a romance of 
chivalry he has uniformly styled God the Father Jupiter, 
our Saviour Apollo, and the Evil Being Pluto. But for 
this there might be some excuse pleaded. I dare make 
none for the gross and disgusting licentiousness, the daring 
profaneness, which rendered the Decameron of Boccaccio 
the parent of a hundred worse children, fit to be classed 
among the enemies of the human race ; which poisons 
Ariosto — (for that I may not speak oftener than necessary 
of so odious a subject, I mention it here once for all) — 
which interposes a painful mixture in the humour of 
Chaucer, and which has once or twice seduced even our 
pure-minded Spenser into a grossness, as heterogeneous 
from the spirit of his great poem, as it was alien to the 
delicacy of his morals. 


Born at Arezzo, 1304. — Died 1374. 

Petrarch was the final blossom and perfection of the 
Troubadours. See Biog. Lit. vol. ii. p. 27, &c. 


VOL. I. 


Sonnet, i. Voi, ch' ascoltate, &c. 
7. La gola, e '1 sonno, &c. 

11. Se la mia vita, &c. 

12. Quando fra I'altre, <&c. 

1 These notes, by Mr. C, are written in a Petrarch in my possession, and ar« of 
Bome date before 1812. It is hoped that they will not seem ill placed here. Ed. 

Lecture III. 227 

18. Vergognando talor, &c. 

25. Quanto piu m' avvicino, &c. 

28. Solo e pensoso, &c. 

29. S' io credessi, &c. 
Canz. 14. Si e debile il filo, &c. 


Ball. i. Lassare il velo, &c. 
Canz. i. Nel dolce tempo, &c. 

This poem was imitated by our old Herbert ; ^ it is ridicu- 
lous in the thoughts, but simple and sweet in diction. 


Canz. 3. O aspettata in ciel, &c. 
9. Gentil mia Donna, &c. 

The first half of this ninth canzone is exquisite ; and in 
canzone 8, the nine lines beginning 

O poggi, o valli, &c. 

to cura, are expressed with vigour and chastity. 

Canz. 9. Daquel dl innanzi a me medesmo piacqui, 
Empiendo d'un pensier' alto, e soave 
Quel core, ond" hanno i begli occhi la chiave. 

Note. that the Pope would take these eternal keys, 
which so for ever turn the bolts on the finest passages of 
true passion ! 


Canz. i. Che debb' io far ? &c. 

Very good ; but not equal, I think, to Canzone 2, 

Amor, se vuoi ch' i' torni, &c. 

though less faulty. With the omission of half-a-dozen 
conceits and Petrarchisms of hooks, baits, flames, and 
torches, this second canzone is a bold and impassioned 
lyric, and leaves no doubt in my mind of Petrarch's having 
possessed a true poetic genius. Utinam deleri possint 
sequentia : — 

L. 17 — 19. e la soave fiamma 

Ch' ancor, lasso ! m' infiamraa 

Essendo spenta, or che fea dunque ardendo ? 

1 If George Herbert is meant, I can find nothing like an imitation of this canzone ia 
his poems. £d. 

228 Course of Lectures 

L. 54 — 56. ov' erano a tutt' ore 

Disposti gli ami ov' io fui preso, e 1' esca 
Ch' i' bramo sempre. 

L. 76 — 79. onde 1' accese 

Saette uscivan d' invisibil foco, 

E ragion temean poco ; 

Che contra '1 ciel non val difesa umana. 

And the lines 86, 87. 

Poser' in dubbio, a cui 

Devesse il pregio di piu laude darsi — 

are rather flatly worded. 


Bom at Florence, 1431. — Died about 1487. 

Pulci was of one of the noblest families in Florence, re- 
ported to be one of the Frankish stocks which remained 
in that city after the departure of Charlemagne : — 

Pulcia Gallorum soboles descendit in urbem, 
Clara quid em bello, sacris nee inhospita Musis. 

Verino de illustrat. Cort. Flor. III. v. 118. 

Members of this family were five times elected to the 
Priorate, one of the highest honours of the republic. Pulci 
had two brothers, and one of their wives, Antonia, who 
were all poets : — 

Carminibus patriis notissima Pulcia proles ; 
Quis non hanc urbem Musarum dicat amicam, 
Si tres producat fratres domus una poetas ? 

lb. II. V. 241. 

Luigi married Lucrezia di Uberto, of the Albizzi family, 
and was intimate with the great men of his time, but more 
especially with Angelo Politian, and Lorenzo the Magnifi- 
cent. His Morgante has been attributed, in part at least, ^ 
to the assistance of Marsilius Ficinus, and by others the 
whole has been attributed to Pohtian. The first conjecture 
is utterly improbable ; the last is possible, indeed, on ac- 
count of the licentiousness of the poem ; but there are 
no direct grounds for believing it. The Morgante Maggiore 
is the first proper romance ; although, perhaps, Pulci had 
the Teseide before him. The story is taken from the 
fabulous history of Turpin ; and if the author had any 

1 Meaning the 25th canto. Ed. 

Lecture III. 229 

distinct object, it seems to have been that of making him- 
self merry with the absurdities of the old romancers. The 
Morgante sometimes makes you think of Rabelais. It 
contains the most remarkable guess or allusion upon the 
subject of America that can be found in any book published 
before the discovery. ^ The well known passage in the 
tragic Seneca is not to be compared with it. The copia 
verhorum of the mother Florentine tongue, and the easiness 
of his style, afterwards brought to perfection by Berni, are 
the chief merits of Pulci ; his chief demerit is his heartless 
spirit of jest and buffoonery, by which sovereigns and their 
courtiers were flattered by the degradation of nature, and 
the impossihilifxation of a pretended virtue. 

1 The reference is, of course, to the following stanzas : — 

Disse Astarotte : nn error lungo e fioco 
Per molti secol non ben conosciuto, 
Fa che si dice d' Ercol le colonne, 
E che pill la molti periti sonne. 

Sappi che questa opinione e vana ; 
Perche piu oltre navicar si puote, 
Pero che 1' acqua in ogni parte e plana, 
Benche la terra abbi forma di ruote : 
Era piu grossa allor ia gente humana ; 
Talche potrebbe arrosirne le gote 
Ercule ancor d' aver posti que' segni, 
Perche piu oitre passeranno i legni. 

E puossi andar giii ne 1' altro emisperio, 
Pero che al centro ogni cosa reprime ; 
Si che la terra per divin misterio 
Sospesa sta fra le stelle sublime, 
E Ik giii son citta, castella, e imperio ; 
Ma nol cognobbon quelle genti prime ; 
Vedi che il sol di camminar s' affretta. 
Dove io ti dico che Ik giu s' aspetta. 

E come un segno surge in Oriente, 
Un altro cade con mirabll arte, 
Come si vede qua ne 1' Occidente, 
Peri che il ciel giustamente comparte ; 
Antipodi appellata e quella gente; 
Adora il sole e Jupiterre e Marte, 
E piante e animal come voi hanno, 
E spesso insieme gran battaglie fanno. 

C. XXV. St. 228, &C. 
The Morgante was printed in 1488. Ed. Another very curious anticipation, said to 
have been first noticed by Amerigo Vespucci, occurs in Dante's Furgatorio : 

I mi volsi a man destra e posi mente 
All 'altro polo : e vidi quattro stelle 
Non viste mai, fuor ch' alia prima gente. 

C. L. I. 22-4. 

230 Course of Lectures 


Born in London, 1328. — Died 1400.^ 

Chaucer must be read with an eye to the Norman-French 
Trouveres, of whom he is the best representative in Enghsh. 
He had great powers of invention. As in Shakspeare, his 
cha,racters represent classes, but in a different manner ; 
Sliakspeare's characters are the representatives of the 
interior nature of humanity, in which some element has 
become so predominant as to destroy the health of the 
mind ; whereas Chaucer's are rather representatives of 
classes of manners. He is therefore more led to indivi- 
dualize in a mere personal sense. Obser^^e Chaucer's love 
of nature ; and how happily the subject of his main work 
is chosen. When you reflect that the company in the 
Decameron have retired to a place of safety, from the 
raging of a pestilence, their mirth provokes a sense of their 
unfeelingness ; whereas in Chaucer nothing of this sort 
occurs, and the scheme of a party on a pilgrimage, with 
different ends and occupations, aptly allows of the greatest 
variety of expression in the tales. 


Bom in London, 1553. — Died 1599. 

There is this difference, among many others, between 
Shakspeare and Spenser : — Shakspeare is never coloured 
by the customs of his age ; what appears of contemporary 
character in him is merely negative ; it is just not some- 
thing else. He has none of the fictitious realities of the 
classics, none of the grotesquenesses of chivalry, none of the 
allegory of the middle ages ; there is no sectarianism either 
of politics or religion, no miser, no witch, — no common 
witch, — no astrology — nothing impermanent of however 
long duration ; but he stands like the yew tree in Lorton 
vale, which has known so many ages that it belongs to none 
in particular ; a living image of endless self-reproduction, 
like the immortal tree of Malabar. In Spenser the spirit of 

1 From Mr. Green's note. Ed. 

Lecture III. 231 

chivalry is entirely predominant, although with a much 
greater infusion of the poet's own individual self into it than 
is found in any other writer. He has the wit of the 
southern with the deeper inv/ardness of the northern genius. 

No one can appreciate Spenser without some reflection on 
the nature of allegorical writing. The mere etymological 
meaning of the word, allegory, — to talk of one thing and 
thereby convey another, — is too wide. The true sense is 
this, — the employment of one set of agents and images to 
convey in disguise a moral meaning, with a likeness to the 
imagination, but with a difference to the understanding, — 
those agents and images being so combined as to form a 
homogeneous whole. This distinguishes it from metaphor, 
which is part of an allegory. But allegory is not properly 
distinguishable from fable, otherwise than as the first 
includes the second, as a genus its species ; for in a fable 
there must be nothing but what is universally known and 
acknowledged, but in an allegory there may be that which 
is new and not previously admitted. The pictures of the 
great masters, especially of the Italian schools, are genuine 
allegories. Amongst the classics, the multitude of their 
gods either precluded allegory altogether, or else made 
every thing allegory, as in the Hesiodic Theogonia ; for 
you can scarcely distinguish between pov^^er and the per- 
sonification of power. The Cupid and Psyche of, or found 
in, Apuleius, is a phsenomenon. It is the Platonic mode 
of accounting for the fall of man. The Battle of the Soul ^ 
by Prudentius is an early instance of Christian allegory. 

Narrative allegory is distinguished from mythology as 
reality from symbol ; it is, in short, the proper inter- 
medium between person and personification. Where it is 
too strongly individuafized, it ceases to be allegory ; this 
is often felt in the Pilgrim's Progress, where the characters 
are real persons with nicknames. Perhaps one of the most 
curious warnings against another attempt at narrative 
aUegory on a great scale, may be found in Tasso's account 
of what he himself intended in and by his Jerusalem 

As characteristic of Spenser, I would call your particular 
attention in the first place to the indescribable sweetness 
and fluent projection of his verse, very clearly distinguish- 
able from the deeper and more inwoven harmonies of 

1 Psychomachia. jEJ. 

232 Course of Lectures 

Shakspeare and Milton. This stanza is a good instance of 
what I mean : — 

Yet she, most faithfull ladie, all this while 

Forsaken, wofull, solitarie mayd, 

Far from all peoples preace, as in exile, 

In wildernesse and wsLstfull deserts strayd 

To seeke her knight ; who, subtily betrayd 

Through that late vision which th' enchaunter wrought, 

Had her abandond ; she, of nought affrayd. 

Through woods and wastnes wide him daily sought. 

Yet wished tydinges none of him unto her brought. 

F. Qu. B. I. c. 3. St. 3. 

2. Combined with this sweetness and fluency, the 
scientific construction of the metre of the Faery Queene is 
very noticeable. One of Spenser's arts is that of allitera- 
tion, and he uses it with great effect in doubling the im- 
pression of an image : — 

In wildernesse and tyastful deserts, — 

Through ^^;oods and t»:-'a.stnes z£^ilde, — 

They pcisse the bitter waves of Acheron, 

Where many soules sit wa.\lmg zfoefully, 

And come to^ery ;?ood of Phlegeton, 

Whereas the damned ghosts in torments fry, 

And with sharp shrilling shrieks doth bootlesse cry, — Sec. 

He is particularly given to an alternate alliteration, which 
is, perhaps, when well used, a great secret in melody : — 

A ramping lyon rushed suddenly, — 

And sad to see her sorrowful constraint, — 

And on the grasse her c^aintie /imbes did lay, — &c. 

You cannot read a page of the Faery Queene, if you read 
for that purpose, without perceiving the intentional 
alliterativeness of the words ; and yet so skilfully is this 
managed, that it never strikes any unwarned ear as arti- 
ficial, or other than the result of the necessary movement of 
the verse. 

3. Spenser displays great skill in harmonizing his de- 
scriptions of external nature and actual incidents with the 
allegorical character and epic activity of the poem. Take 
these two beautiful passages as illustrations of what I 
mean : — 

By this the northerne wagoner had set 
His sevenfol teme behind the stedfast starre 
That was in ocean waves yet never wet, 
But firme is fixt, and sendeth light from farre 

Lecture III. 233 

To all that in the wide deepe wandring aire ; 

And chearefull chaunticlere with his note shrill 

Had warned once, that Phoebus' fiery carre 

In hast was climbing up the easterne hill, 

Full envious that Night so long his roome did fill ; 

When those accursed messengers of hell, 

That feigning dreame, and that f aire- forged sprigbt 

Came, &c. B. I. c. 2. st. i. 

1): * « 

At last, the golden oriental! gate 

Of greatest Heaven gan to open fayre ; 

And Phcebus, fresh as brydegrome to his mate, 

Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre ; 

And hurld his glistring beams through gloomy ayre. 

Which when the wakeful Elfe perceiv'd, streightway 

He started up, and did him selfe prepayre 

In sunbright armes and battailous array ; 

For with that Pagan proud he combat will that day. 

lb. c. 5. st. 2. 

Observe also the exceeding vividness of Spenser's de- 
scriptions. They are not, in the true sense of the word, 
picturesque ; but are composed of a wondrous series of 
images, as in our dreams. Compare the following passage 
with any thing you may remember in pari materia in Milton 
or Shakspeare : — 

His haughtie helmet, horrid all with gold. 

Both glorious brightnesse and great terrour bredd ; 

For all the crest a dragon did enfold 

With greedie pawes, and over all did spredd 

His golden winges ; his dreadfull hideous hedd. 

Close couched on the bever, seemd to throw 

From flaming mouth bright sparkles fiery redd, 

That suddeine horrour to faint hartes did show ; 

And scaly tayle was stretcht adowne his back full low. 

Upon the top of all his loftie crest 

A bounch of haires discolourd diversly. 

With sprinkled pearle and gold full richly drest, 

Did shake, and seemd to daunce for jollitie ; 

Like to an almond tree ymounted hye 

On top of greene Selinis all alone, 

With blossoms brave bedecked daintily. 

Whose tender locks do tremble every one 

At everie little breath that under heaven is blowne. 

lb. c. 7. st. 31-2. 

4. You will take especial noce of the marvellous inde- 
pendence and true imaginative absence of all particular 
space or time in the Faery Queene. It is in the domains 
neither of history or geography ; it is ignorant of all arti- 
ficial boundary, all material obstacles ; it is truly in land of 

234 Course of Lectures 

Faery, that is, of mental space. The poet has placed you 
in a dream, a charmed sleep, and you neither wish, nor have 
the power, to inquire where you are, or how you got there. 
It reminds me of some lines of my own : — 

Oh ! would to Alia ! 
The raven or the sea-mew were appointed 
To bring me food ! — or rather that my soul 
Might draw in life from the universal air ! 
It were a lot divine in some small skiff 
Along some ocean's boundless solitude 
To float for ever with a careless course 
And think myself the only being alive ! 

Remorse, Act iv. sc. 3. 

Indeed Spenser himself, in the conduct of his great poem, 
may be represented under the same image, his symbolizing 
purpose being his mariner's compass : — 

As pilot well expert in perilous wave, 
That to a stedfast starre his course hath bent, 
When foggy mistes or cloudy tempests have 
The faithfull light of that faire lampe yblent. 
And coverd Heaven with hideous dreriment ; 
Upon his card and compas firmes his eye, 
The maysters of his long experiment, 
And to them does the steddy helme apply, 
Bidding his winged vessell fairely forward fi}'-. 

B. II. c. 7. St. I. 

So the poet through the realms of allegory. 

5. You should note the quintessential character of 
Christian chivalry in all his characters, but more especially 
in his women. The Greeks, except, perhaps, in Homer, 
seem to have had no way of making their women interest- 
ing, but by unsexing them, as in the instances of the tragic 
Medea, Electra, &c. Contrast such characters with 
Spenser's Una, who exhibits no prominent feature, has no 
particularization, but produces the same feeling that a 
statue does, when contemplated at a distance : — 

From her fayre head her fillet she undight, 

And layd her stole aside : her angels face, 

As the great eye of Heaven, shyned bright, 

And made a sunshine in the shady place ; 

Did never mortal eye behold such heavenly grace. 

B. 1. c. 3. St. 4. 

6. In Spenser we see the brightest and purest form of 
that nationality which was so common a characteristic of 

Lecture III. 235 

our elder poets. There is nothing unamiable, nothing con- 
temptuous of others, in it. To glorify their country — to 
elevate England into a queen, an empress of the heart — 
this was their passion and object ; and how dear and im- 
portant an object it was or may be, let Spain, in the 
recollection of her Cid, declare ! There is a great magic in 
national names. What a damper to all interest is a list of 
native East Indian merchants ! Unknown names are 
non-conductors ; they stop all sympathy. No one of our 
poets has touched this string more exquisitely than Spenser; 
especially in his chronicle of the British Kings (B. II. c. 
10), and the marriage of the Thames with the Medway 
(B. IV. c. 11), in both which passages the mere names con- 
stitute half the pleasure we receive. To the same feeling 
we must in particular attribute Spenser's sweet reference 
to Ireland : — 

Ne thence the Irishe rivers absent were ; 
Sith no lesse famous than the rest they be, &c. lb. 
* * * ■ * 

And jNIulla mine, whose waves I whilom taught to weep. 


And there is a beautiful passage of the same sort in the 
Colin Clout's Come Home Again : — 

" One day," quoth he, "I sat, as was my trade, 
Under the foot of Mole," &c. 

Lastly, the great and prevailing character of Spenser's 
mind is fancy under the conditions of imagination, as an 
ever present but not always active power. He has an 
imaginative fancy, but he has not imagination, in kind or 
degree, as Shakspeare and Milton have ; the boldest effort 
of his powers in this way is the character of Talus. ^ Add 
to this a feminine tenderness and almost maidenly purity 
of feeling, and above aU, a deep moral earnestness which 
produces a believing sympathy and acquiescence in the 
reader, and you have a tolerably adequate view of Spenser's 
intellectual being. 

1 JB. 5. Legend of Artegall. Ea. 

236 Course of Lectures 


Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and 

A CONTEMPORARY is rather an ambiguous term, when 
applied to authors. It may simply mean that one man 
lived and wrote while another was yet alive, however 
deeply the former may have been indebted to the latter as 
his model. There have been instances in the hterary world 
that might remind a botanist of a singular sort of parasite 
plant, which rises above ground, independent and un- 
supported, an apparent original ; but trace its roots, and 
you wiU find the fibres all terminating in the root of another 
plant at an unsuspected distance, which, perhaps, from 
want of sun and genial soil, and the loss of sap, has scarcely 
been able to peep above the ground. — Or the word may 
mean those whose compositions were contemporaneous in 
such a sense as to preclude all hkelihood of the one having 
borrowed from the other. In the latter sense I should call 
Ben Jonson a contemporary of Shakspeare, though he long 
survived him ; while I should prefer the phrase of im- 
mediate successors for Beaumont and Fletcher, and 
Massinger, though they too were Shakspeare' s contem- 
poraries in the former sense. 

Born, 1574. — Died, 1637. 

Ben Jonson is original ; he is, indeed, the only one of the 
great dramatists of that day who was not either directly 
produced, or very greatly modified, by Shakspeare. In 
truth, he differs from our great master in every thing — in 
form and in substance — and betrays no tokens of his 
proximity. He is not original in the same way as Shak- 
speare is original ; but after a fashion of his own, Ben 
Jonson is most truly original. 

The characters in his plays are, in the strictest sense of 
the term, abstractions. Some very prominent feature is 

1 From Mr. Green's note. Ed. 

Lecture VII. 237 

taken from the whole man, and that single feature or 
humour is made the basis upon which the entire character 
is built up. Ben Jonson's dramatis personcB are almost as 
fixed as the masks of the ancient actors ; you know from 
the first scene — sometimes from the list of names — exactly 
what every one of them is to be. He was a very accurately 
observing man ; but he cared only to observe what was 
external or open to, and likely to impress, the senses. He 
individualizes, not so much, if at all, by the exhibition of 
moral or intellectual differences, as by the varieties and con- 
trasts of manners, modes of speech and tricks of temper ; 
as in such characters as Puntarvolo, Bobadill, &c. 

I believe there is not one whim or affectation in common 
life noted in any memoir of that age which may not be 
found drawn and framed in some corner or other of Ben 
Jonson's dramas ; and they have this merit, in common 
with Hogarth's prints, that not a single circumstance is 
introduced in them which does not play upon, and help to 
bring out, the dominant humour or humours of the piece. 
Indeed I ought very particularly to call your attention to 
the extraordinary skill shown by Ben Jonson in contriving 
situations for the display of his characters. ^ In fact, his 
care and anxiety in this matter led him to do what scarcely 
any of the dramatists of that age did — that is, invent his 
plots. It is not a first perusal that suffices for the full per- 
ception of the elaborate artifice of the plots of the Alchemist 
and the Silent Woman ; — that of the former is absolute 
perfection for a necessary entanglement, and an unexpected, 
yet natural, evolution. 

Ben Jonson exhibits a sterling English diction, and he 
has with great skill contrived varieties of construction ; 
but his style is rarely sweet or harmonious, in consequence 
of his labour at point and strength being so evident. In 
aU his works, in verse or prose, there is an extraordinary 
opulence of thought ; but it is the produce of an amassing 
power in the author, and not of a growth from within. 
Indeed a large proportion of Ben Jonson's thoughts may be 
traced to classic or obscure modern writers, by those who 
are learned and curious enough to follow the steps of this 
robust, surly, and observing dramatist. 

1" In Jonson's comic inventious," says Schlegel, "a spirit of observation is mani- 
fested more than fancy." Vol. 4, p. 93. 

238 Course of Lectures 

BEAUMONT. Born, 1586.1— Died, 1615-16. 
FLETCHER. Bom, 1579.— Died, 1625. 

Mr. Weber, to whose taste, industry, and appropriate 
erudition, we owe, I will not say the best, (for that would 
be saying little,) but a good, edition of Beaumont and 
Fletcher, has complimented the Philaster, which he him- 
self describes as inferior to the Maid's Tragedy by the 
same writers, as but little below the noblest of Shak- 
speare's plays, Lear, Macbeth, Othello, &c. and conse- 
quently implying the equaUty, at least, of the Maid's 
Tragedy ; — and an eminent Living critic, — who in the 
manly wit, strong sterling sense, and robust style of his 
original works, had presented the best possible credentials 
of office, as charge d'affaires of literature in general, — and 
who by his edition of Massinger — a work in which there 
was more for an editor to do, and in which more was 
actually well done, than in any similar work within my 
knowledge — has proved an especial right of authority in 
the appreciation of dramatic poetry, and hath potenti- 
ally a double voice with the public in his own right and in 
that of the critical synod, where, as princeps senatus, he 
possesses it by his prerogative, — has affirmed that Shak- 
speare's superiority to his contemporaries rests on his 
superior wit alone, while in all the other, and, as I should 
deem, higher excellencies of the drama, character, pathos, 
depth of thought, &c. he is equalled by Beaumont and 
Fletcher, Ben Jonson, and Massinger ! ^ 

Of wit I am engaged to treat in another Lecture. It is 
a genus of many species ; and at present I shall only say, 
that the species which is predominant in Shakspeare, is so 
completely Shakspearian, and in its essence so interwoven 
with all his other characteristic excellencies, that I am 
equally incapable of comprehending, both how it can be 
detached from his other powers, and how, being disparate 
in kind from the wit of contemporary dramatists, it can 
be compared with theirs in degree. And again — the 

1 Mr. Dyce thinks that " Beaumont's birth ought to be fixed at a somewhat earlier 
date," because, in the Funeral Certificate on the decease of his father, dated 22nd 
April, 1598, he is said to be 0/ tkz age of thirteen years or more ; and because " at the 
age of twelve. 4th February, 1596-7," according to Woods Ath. Oxon, "he was 
admitted a gentle.-nan-comnionrr of Broadgates Hall." 

2 See Mr.^Gifford's introduction to his edition of Massinger. Ed. 

Lecture VII. 239 

detachment and the practicabiHty of the comparison 
being granted — I should, I confess, be rather incUned to 
concede the contrary ; — and in the most common species 
of wit, and in the ordinary apphcation of the term, to 
yield this particular palm to Beaumont and Fletcher, 
whom here and hereafter I take as one poet with two 
names, — leaving undivided what a rare love and still 
rarer congeniality have united. At least, I have never 
been able to distinguish the presence of Fletcher during 
the life of Beaumont, nor the absence of Beaumont during 
the survival of Fletcher. 

But waiving, or rather deferring this question, I protest 
against the remainder of the position m toto. And indeed, 
whilst I can never, I trust, show myself blind to the various 
merits of Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger, 
or insensible to the greatness of the merits which they 
possess in common, or to the specific excellencies which 
give to each of the three a worth of his own, — I confess, 
that one main object of this Lecture was to prove that 
Shakspeare's eminence is his own, and not that of his age ; 
— even as the pine-apple, the melon, and the gourd may 
grow on the same bed ; — yea, the same circumstances of 
warmth and soil may be necessary to their full develop- 
ment, yet do not account for the golden hue, the ambrosial 
flavour, the perfect shape of the pine-apple, or the tufted 
crown on its head. Would that those, who seek to twist 
it off, could but promise us in this instance to make it the 
germ of an equal successor ! 

What had a grammatical and logical consistency for 
the ear, — what could be put together and represented to 
the eye — these poets took from the ear and eye, unchecked 
by any intuition of an inward impossibility ; — just as a 
man might put together a quarter of an orange, a quarter 
of an apple, and the like of a lemon and a pomegranate, 
and made it look like one round diverse-coloured fruit. 
But nature, which works from within by evolution and 
assimilation according to a law, cannot do so, nor could 
Shakspeare ; for he too worked in the spirit of nature, by 
evolving the germ from within by the imaginative power 
according to an idea. For as the power of seeing is to 
light, so is an idea in mind to a law in nature. They are 
correlatives, which suppose each other. 

The plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are mere aggrega- 

240 Course of Lectures 

tions without unity ; in the Shakspearian drama there is a 
vitality which grows and evolves itself from within, — a 
key-note which guides and controls the harmonies through- 
out. What is Lear ? — It is storm and tempest — the 
thunder at first grumbling in the far horizon, then gather- 
ing around us, and at length bursting in fury over our 
heads, — succeeded by a breaking of the clouds for a while, 
a last flash of lightning, the closing in of night, and the 
single hope of darkness ! And Romeo and Juliet ? — It is 
a spring day, gusty and beautiful in the morn, and closing 
like an April evening with the song of the nightingale ; ^ 
— whilst Macbeth is deep and earthy, — composed to the 
subterranean music of a troubled conscience, which con- 
verts ever}^ thing into the wild and fearful ! 

Doubtless from mere observation, or from the occasional 
similarity of the writer's own character, more or less in 
Beaumont and Fletcher, and other such writers, will happen 
to be in correspondence with nature, and still more in 
apparent compatibility with it. But yet the false source 
is always discoverable, first by the gross contradictions to 
nature in so many other parts, and secondly, by the want 
of the impression which Shakspeare makes, that the thing 
said not only might have been said, but that nothing else 
could be substituted, so as to excite the same sense of its 
exquisite propriety. I have always thought the conduct 
and expressions of Othello and I ago in the last scene, when 
lago is brought in prisoner, a wonderful instance of Shak- 
speare's consummate judgment : — 

0th. I look down towards his feet ; — but that's a fable. 

If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee. 
lago. I bleed, Sir ; but not kill'd. 
0th. I am not sorry neither. 

Think what a volley of execrations and defiances Beaumont 
and Fletcher would have poured forth here ! 

Indeed Massinger and Ben Jonson are both more perfect 
in their kind than Beaumont and Fletcher ; the former 
in the story and affecting incidents ; the latter in the 
exhibition of manners and peculiarities, whims in language, 
and vanities of appearance. 

There is, however, a diversity of the most dangerous 

1 Was der Duft eines siidlichen Friihlings berauschendes, der Gesang der Nachtigall 
sehasuchtiges, das erste Auf bluhung der Rose wollustiges hat, das athraet aus diesem 
Gedicht. Schlegel's Dram. Vorlcsun^en, Vol. iii. p 107. 

Lecture VII. 241 

kind here. Shakspeare shaped his characters out ol the 
nature within ; but we cannot so safely say, out of his own 
nature as an individual person. No ! this latter is itself 
but a natura naturata, — an effect, a product, not a power. 
It was Shakspeare's prerogative to have the universal, 
which is potentially in each particular, opened out to him, 
the homo generalis, not as an abstraction from observation 
of a variety of men, but as the substance capable of endless 
modifications, of which his own personal existence was but 
one, and to use this one as the eye that beheld the other, 
and as the tongue that could convey the discovery. There 
is no greater or more common vice in dramatic writers 
than to draw out of themselves. How I — alone and in the 
self sufficiency of my study, as all men are apt to be proud 
in their dreams — should like to be talking king ! Shak- 
speare, in composing, had no /, but the / representative. 
In Beaumont and Fletcher you have descriptions of char- 
acters by the poet rather than the characters themselves : 
we are told, and impressively told, of their being ; but we 
rarely or never feel that they actually are. 

Beaumont and Fletcher are the most lyrical of our 
dramatists, I think their comedies the best part of their 
works, although there are scenes of very deep tragic 
interest in some of their plays. I particularly recommend 
Monsieur Thomas for good pure comic humour. 

There is, occasionally, considerable license in their 
dramas ; and this opens a subject much needing vindica- 
tion and sound exposition, but which is beset with such 
difficulties for a Lecturer, that I must pass it by. Only as 
far as Shakspeare is concerned, I own, I can with less pain 
admit a fault in him than beg an excuse for it. I will not, 
therefore, attempt to palliate the grossness that actually 
exists in his plays by the customs of his age, or by the far 
greater coarseness of aU his contemporaries, excepting 
Spenser, who is himself not wholly blameless, though 
nearly so ; — for I place Shakspeare's merit on being of no 
age. But I would clear away what is, in my judgment, 
not his, as that scene of the Porter ^ in Macbeth, and many 
other such passages, and abstract what is coarse in manners 
only, and all that which from the frequency of our own 
vices, we associate with his words. If this were truly done, 
little that could be justly reprehensible would remain. 

1 Act ii. sc. 3. 

242 Course of Lectures 

Compare the vile comments, offensive and defensive, on 

Lust thro' some gentle strainers, &c. 

With the worst thing in Shakspeare, or even in Beaumont 
and Fletcher ; and then consider how unfair the attack is 
on our old dramatists ; especially because it is an attack 
that cannot be properly answered in that presence in which 
an answer would be most desirable, from the painful nature 
of one part of the position ; but this very pain is almost a 
demonstration of its falsehood ! 

Born at Salisbury, 1584. — Died, 1640. 

With regard to Massinger, observe, 

1. The vein of satire on the times ; but this is not as in 
Shakspeare, where the natures evolve themselves accord- 
ing to their incidental disproportions, from excess, de- 
ficiency, or mislocation, of one or more of the component 
elements ; but is merely satire on what is attributed to 
them by others. 

2. His excellent metre— a better model for dramatists in 
general to imitate than Shakspeare's, — even if a dramatic 
taste existed in the frequenters of the stage, and could be 
gratified in the present size and management, or rather 
mismanagement, of the two patent theatres. I do not 
mean that Massinger's verse is superior to Shakspeare's or 
equal to it. Far from it ; but it is much more easily con- 
structed, and may be more successfully adopted by writers 
in the present day. It is the nearest approach to the 
language of real life at all compatible with a fixed metre. 
In Massinger, as in all our poets before Dryden, in order to 
make harmonious verse in the reading, it is absolutely 
necessary that the meaning should be understood ; — when 
the meaning is once seen, then the harmony is perfect. 
Whereas in Pope, and in most of the writers who followed in 
his school, it is the mechanical metre which determines the 

3. The impropriety, and indecorum of demeanour in his 
favourite characters, as in Bertoldo in the Maid of Honour, 

Lecture VII. 243 

who is a swaggerer, talking to his sovereign what no 
sovereign could endure, and to gentlemen what no gentle- 
men would answer without pulling his nose. 

4. Shakspeare's Ague-cheek, Osric, &c. are displayed 
through others, in the course of social intercourse, by the 
mode of their performing some office in which they are 
employed ; but Massinger's Sylli come forward to declare 
themselves fools ab arbitrium auctoris, and so the diction 
always needs the subintelUgitur {'the man looks as if he 
thought so and so,') expressed in the language of the 
satirist, and not in that of the man himself : — 

Sylli. You may, madam, 
Perhaps, believe that I in this use art 
To make you dote upon me, by exposing 
My more than most rare features to your view ; 
But I, as I have ever done, deal simply, 
A mark of sweet simplicity, ever noted 
In the family of the Syllis. Therefore, lady, 
Look not with too much contemplation on me ; 
If you do, you are in the suds. 

Maid of Honour, Act i. sc. 2. 

The author mixes his own feelings and judgments concern- 
ing the presumed fool ; but the man himself, till mad, fights 
up against them, and betrays, by his attempts to modify 
them, that he is no fool at all, but one gifted with activity 
and copiousness of thought, image and expression, which 
belong not to a fool, but to a man of wit making himself 
merry with his own character. 

5. There is an utter want of preparation in the decisive 
acts of Massinger's characters, as in Camiola and Aurelia 
in the Maid of Honour. Why ? Because the dramatis 
personcB were all planned each by itself. Whereas in 
Shakspeare, the play is syngenesia ; each character has, 
indeed, a life of its own, and is an individuum of itself, but 
yet an organ of the whole, as the heart in the human body. 
Shakspeare was a great comparative anatomist. 

Hence Massinger and all, indeed, but Shakspeare, take 
a dislike to their own characters, and spite themselves upon 
them by making them talk like fools or monsters ; as 
Fulgentio in his visit to Camiola, (Act ii. sc. 2.). Hence too, 
in Massinger, the continued flings at kings, courtiers, and 
all the favourites of fortune, like one who had enough of 
intellect to see injustice in his own inferiority in the share 
of the good things of life, but not genius enough to rise 

244 Course of Lectures 

above it, and forget himself. Beaumont and Fletcher have 
the same vice in the opposite pole, a servility of sentiment 
and a spirit of partizanship with the monarchical faction. 

6. From the want of a guiding point in Massinger's 
characters, you never know what they are about. In fact 
they have no character. 

7. Note the faultiness of his soliloquies, with connectives 
and arrangements that have no other motive but the fear 
lest the audience should not understand him. 

8. A play of Massinger's produces no one single effect, 
whether arising from the spirit of the whole, as in the As 
You Like It ; or from any one indisputably prominent 
character, as Hamlet. It is just " which you like best, 
gentlemen ! " 

9. The unnaturally irrational passions and strange whims 
of feeling which Massinger delights to draw, deprive the 
reader of all sound interest in the characters ; — as in 
Mathias in the Picture, and in other instances. 

10. The comic scenes in Massinger not only do not 
harmonize with the tragic, not only interrupt the feeling, 
but degrade the characters that are to form any part in the 
action of the piece, so as to render them unfit for any tragic 
interest. At least, they do not concern, or act upon, or 
modify, the principal characters. As when a gentleman 
is insulted by a mere blackguard, — it is the same as if any 
other accident of nature had occurred, a pig run under his 
legs, or his horse thrown him. There is no dramatic interest 
in it. 

I like Massinger's comedies better than his tragedies, 
although where the situation requires it, he often rises into 
the truly tragic and pathetic. He excels in narration, and 
for the most part displays his mere story with skill. But 
he is not a poet of high imagination ; he is like a Flemish 
painter, in whose delineations objects appear as they do in 
nature, have the same force and truth, and produce the 
same effect upon the spectator. But Shakspeare is beyond 
this ; he always by metaphors and figures involves in the 
thing considered a universe of past and possible experiences ; 
he mingles earth, sea and air, gives a soul to every thing, 
and at the same time that he inspires human feelings, adds 
a dignity in his images to human nature itself : — 

Full raany a glorious morning have I seen 
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye ; 

Lecture VII. 245 

Kissing with golden face the meadows green, 
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy, &c. 

33rd Sonnet. 

Notes on Massinger. 

Have I not over-rated Gifford's edition of Massinger ? — • 
Not, — if I have, as but just is, main reference to the re- 
stitution of the text ; but yes, perhaps, if I were talking of 
the notes. These are more often wrong than right. In 
the Maid of Honour, Act i. sc. 5. Astutio describes Fulgentio 
as " A gentleman, yet no lord." Gifford supposes a trans- 
position of the press for " No gentleman, yet a lord." But 
this would have no connection with what follows ; and we 
have only to recollect that " lord " means a lord of lands, 
to see that the after hues are explanatory. He is a man of 
high birth, but no landed property ; — as to the former, he 
is a distant branch of the blood royal ; — as to the latter, his 
whole rent lies in a narrow compass, the king's ear ! In the 
same scene the text stands : 

Bert. No ! they are useful 
For your imitation ; — I remember 

you, &c. 

and Gifford condemns Mason's conjecture of * initiation* as 
void of meaning and harmony. Now my ear deceives me 
if 'initiation' be not the right word. In fact, 'imitation' is 
utterly impertinent to aU that follows. Bertoldo tells 
Antonio that he had been initiated in the manners suited to 
the court by two or three sacred beauties, and that a 
similar experience would be equally useful for his initiation 
into the camp. Not a word of his imitation. Besides, I 
say the rhythm requires 'initiation,' and is lame as the 
verse now stands. 

1 Two or three tales, each in itself independent of the 
others, and united only by making the persons that are 
the agents in the story the relations of those in the other, 
as when a bind-weed or thread is twined round a bunch of 
flowers, each having its own root — and this novel narrative 
in dialogue — such is the character of Massinger' s plays — 
That the juxta-position and the tying together by a 
common thread, which goes round this and round that, 

1 The notes on Massinger which follow were transcribed from a copy of that 
dramatist's works, belonging to Mr. Gillman. I do not know whence the first was 
taken by the original editor. 

246 Course of Lectures 

and then round them all, twine and intertwine, are con- 
trived ingeniously — that the component tales are well 
chosen, and the whole well and conspicuously told ; so as 
to excite and sustain the mind by kindling and keeping 
alive the curiosity of the reader — that the language is 
most pure, equally free from bookishness and from vulgar- 
ism, from the pecuharities of the School, and the tran- 
siencies of fashion, whether fine or coarse ; that the 
rhythm and metre are incomparably good, and form the 
very model of dramatic versification, flexible and seeming 
to rise out of the passions, so that whenever a line sounds 
immetrical, the speaker may be certain he has recited it 
amiss, either that he has misplaced or misproportioned 
the emphasis, or neglected the acceleration or retardation 
of the voice in the pauses (all which the mood or passion 
would have produced in the real Agent, and therefore 
demand from the Actor or {^muii^'toT}) and that read aright 
the blank verse is not less smooth than varied, a rich 
harmony, puzzling the fingers, but satisfying the ear — 
these are Massinger's characteristic merits. 

Among the varieties of blank verse Massinger is fond 
of the anapaest in the first and third foot, as : 

" To yoiir more | than ma | sciihne rea | son 
that I commands 'em || -" ^ 

The Guardian, Act i. sc. 2. 

Likewise of the second Paeon (u - uu) in the first foot 
followed by four trochees (- u) as : 

" So greedily | long for, | know their | 
titill I ations." lb. ib. 

The emphasis too has a decided influence on the metre, 
and, contrary to the metres of the Greek and Roman 
classics, at lestst to all their more common sorts of verse, 
as the hexameter and hex and pentameter, Alchaic, 
Sapphic, &c. hcLS an essential agency on the character of 
the feet and power of the verse. One instance only of this 
I recollect in Theocritus : 

TO firi KoXa /fdXd xiipavrdi, 

I Giflford divides the lines in question thus : 
" Command my sensual appetites. 

C.alip. As vassals to 

Your more than masculine reason, that commands them." 
But it is obviously better to make the first line end with " vassals," so as to give it only 
the one over-running syllable, which is so common in the last foot. 

Lecture VIII. 247 

unless Homer's ' A-p^g, "Apeg, may (as I believe) be deemed 
another — For I cannot bring my ear to believe that 
Homer would have perpetrated such a cacophony as 

"flpsg, 'Apsg. 

" In fear | my chaasteetee | may be | sus- 
pected." I lb. ib. 

In short, musical notes are required to explain Massinger 
— metres in addition to prosody. When a speech is 
interrupted, or one of the characters speaks aside, the last 
syllable of the former speech and first of the succeeding 
Massinger counts but for one, because both are supposed 
to be spoken at the same moment. 

** And felt the sweetness oft." 

" How her mouth runs over." 
Ib. ib. 

Emphasis itself is twofold, the rap and the drawl, or the 
emphasis by quality of sound, and that by quantitj^ — the 
hammer, and the spatula — the latter over 2, 3, 4 syllables 
or even a whole line. It is in this that the actors and 
speakers are generally speaking defective, they cannot 
equilibrate an emphasis, or spread it over a number of 
syllables, aU emphasized, sometimes equally, sometimes 


Don Quixote. 


Born at Madrid, 1547 ; — Shakspeare, 1564 ; both put off 
mortality on the same day, the 23rd of April, 1616, — the 
one in the sixty-ninth, the other in the fifty-second, year 
of his life. The resemblance in their physiognomies is 
striking, but with a predominance of acuteness in Cervantes, 
and of reflection in Shakspeare, which is the specific 
difference between the Spanish and English characters of 

I. The nature and eminence of Symbolical writing ; — 

II. Madness, and its different sorts, (considered with- 
out pretension to medical science) ; — 

248 Course of Lectures 

To each of these, or at least to my own notions respecting 
them, I must devote a few words of explanation, in order 
to render the after critique on Don Quixote, the master 
work of Cervantes' and his country's genius, easily and 
throughout intelligible. This is not the least valuable, 
though it may most often be felt by us both as the heaviest 
and least entertaining portion of these critical disquisi- 
tions : for without it, I must have foregone one at least 
of the two appropriate objects of a Lecture, that of interest- 
ing you during its delivery, and of leaving behind in your 
minds the germs of after-thought, and the materials for 
future enjoyment. To have been assured by several of 
my intelligent auditors that they have reperused Hamlet 
or Othello with increased satisfaction in consequence of 
the new points of view in which I had placed those char- 
acters — is the highest compliment I could receive or 
desire ; and should the address of this evening open out 
a new source of pleasure, or enlarge the former in j^our 
perusal of Don Quixote, it will compensate for the failure 
of any personal or temporary object. 

L The Symbolical cannot, perhaps, be better defined 
in distinction from the Allegorical, than that it is always 
itself a part of that, of the whole of which it is the repre- 
sentative. — " Here comes a sail," — (that is, a ship) is a 
symbolical expression. " Behold our lion ! " when we 
speak of some gallant soldier, is allegorical. Of most ^ 
importance to our present subject is this point, that the 
latter (the allegory) cannot be other than spoken con- 
sciously ; — whereas in the former (the symbol) it is very 
possible that the general truth represented may be working 
unconsciously in the writer's mind during the construction 
of the symbol ; — and it proves itself by being produced 
out of his own mind, — as the Don Quixote out of the 
perfectly sane mind of Cervantes ; and not by outward 
observation, or historically. The advantage of symbohcal 
writing over allegory is, that it presumes no disjunction 
of faculties, but simple predominance. 

II. Madness may be divided as — 

1. hypochondriasis ; or, the man is out of his senses. 

2. derangement of the understanding ; or, the man 

is out of his wits. 

3. loss of reason. 

4. frenzy, or derangement of the sensations. 

Lecture VIII. 249 

Cervantes's own preface to Don Quixote is a perfect 
model of the gentle, every where intelligible, irony in the 
best essays of the Tatler and the Spectator. Equally 
natural and easy, Cervantes is more spirited than Addison ; 
whilst he blends with the terseness of Swift, an exquisite 
flow and music of style, and above all, contrasts with the 
latter by the sweet temper of a superior mind, which saw 
the follies of mankind, and was even at the moment 
suffering severely under hard mistreatment ; ^ and yet 
seems every where to have but one thought as the under- 
song — " Brethren ! with all your faults I love you still ! " 
— or as a mother that chides the child she loves, with one 
hand holds up the rod, and with the other wipes off each 
tear as it drops ! 

Don Quixote was neither fettered to the earth by want, 
nor holden in its embraces by wealth ; — of which, with 
the temperance natural to his country, as a Spaniard, he 
had both far too little, and somewhat too much, to be 
under any necessity of thinking about it. His age too, 
fifty, may be well supposed to prevent his mind from being 
tempted out of itself by any of the lower passions ; — while 
his habits, as a very early riser and a keen sportsman, 
were such as kept his spare body in serviceable subjection 
to his will, and yet by the play of hope that accompanies 
pursuit, not only permitted, but assisted, his fancy in 
shaping what it would. Nor must we omit his meagre- 
ness and entire featureliness, face and frame, which 
Cervantes gives us at once : " It is said that his surname 
was Quixada or Quesada," &c. — even in this trifle showing 
an exquisite judgment ; — just once insinuating the associa- 
tion of lantern-jaws into the reader's mind, yet not retaining 
it obtrusively like the names in old farces and in the 
Pilgrim's Progress, — but taking for the regular appellative 
one which had the no meaning of a proper name in real life, 
and which yet was capable of recalling a number of very 
different, but all pertinent, recollections, cLS old armour, 
the precious metals hidden in the ore, &c. Don Quixote's 
leanness and featureliness are happy exponents of the 
excess of the formative or imaginative in him, contrasted 

1 Bien coitw quicn se eng-cndrd en una carcel, cionde toda incomodidcul tiene su 
assicnto, y todo triste ntido hace su hahitacion. Like one you may suppose born in a 
prison, where every inconvenience keeps its residence, and every dismal sound its 
habitation. Pref. Jarvis's Tr. Ed. 

250 Course of Lectures 

with Sancho's plump rotundity, and recipiency of external 

He has no knowledge of the sciences or scientific arts 
which give to the meanest portions of matter an intel- 
lectual interest, and which enable the mind to decypher in 
the world of the senses the invisible agency — that alone, of 
which the world's phenomena are the effects and mani- 
festations, — and thus, as in a mirror, to contemplate its 
own reflex, its Hfe in the powers, its imagination in the 
symbolic forms, its moral instincts in the final causes, and 
its reason in the laws of material nature : but — estranged 
from all the motives to observation from self-interest — the 
persons that surround him too few and too familiar to enter 
into any connection with his thoughts, or to require any 
adaptation of his conduct to their particular characters or 
relations to himself — his judgment lies fallow, with nothing 
to excite, nothing to employ it. Yet, — and here is the 
point, where genius even of the most perfect kind, allotted 
but to few in the course of many ages, does not preclude the 
necessity in part, and in part counterbalance the craving by 
sanity of judgment, without which genius either cannot be, 
or cannot at least manifest itself, — the dependency of our 
nature asks for some confirmation from without, though it 
be only from the shadows of other men's fictions. 

Too uninformed, and with too narrow a sphere of pov/er 
and opportunity to rise into the scientific artist, or to be 
himself a patron of art, and with too deep a principle and 
too much innocence to become a mere projector, Don 
Quixote has recourse to romances : — 

His curiosity and extravagant fondness herein arrived at that 
pitch, that he sold many acres of arable land to purchase books of 
knis:ht-errantry, and carried home all he could lay hands on of that 
kind ! C. I. 

The more remote these romances were from the language 
of common life, the more akin on that very account were 
they to the shapeless dreams and strivings of his own mind ; 
— a mind, which possessed not the highest order of genius 
which lives in an atmosphere of power over mankind, but 
that minor kind which, in its restlessness, seeks for a vivid 
representative of its own wishes, and substitutes the move- 
ments of that objective puppet for an exercise of actual 
power in and by itself. The more wild and improbable 

Lecture VIII. 251 

these romances were, the more were they akin to his will, 
which had been in the habit of acting as an unlimited 
monarch over the creations of his fancy ! Hence observe 
how the startling of the remaining common sense, like a 
glimmering before its death, in the notice of the impossible- 
improbable of Don Belianis, is dismissed by Don Quixote 
as impertinent — 

He had some doubt ^ as to the dreadful wounds which Don Belianis 
gave and received : for he imagined, that notwithstanding the 
most expert surgeons had cured him, his face and whole body must 
still be full of seams and scars. Nevertheless ^ he commended in 
his author the concluding his book with a promise of that un- 
finishable adventure ! C. i. 

Hence also his first intention to turn author ; but who, 
with such a restless struggle \vithin him, would content 
himself with writing in a remote village among apathists 
and ignorants ? During his colloquies with the village 
priest and the barber surgeon, in which the fervour of 
critical controversy feeds the passion and gives reality to 
its object — what more natural than that the mental striving 
should become an eddy ? — madness may perhaps be defined 
as the circling in a stream which should be progressive and 
adaptive ; Don Quixote grows at length to be a man out 
of his wits ; his understanding is deranged ; and hence 
without the least deviation from the truth of nature, with- 
out losing the least trait of personal individuality, he 
becomes a substantial hving allegory, or personification of 
the reason and the moral sense, divested of the judgment 
and the understanding. Sancho is the converse. He is 
the common sense without reason or imagination ; and 
Cervantes not only shows the excellence and power of 
reason in Don Quixote, but in both him and Sancho the 
mischiefs resulting from a severance of the two main con- 
stituents of sound intellectual and moral action. Put him 
and his master together, and they form a perfect intellect ; 
but they are separated and without cement ; and hence 
each having a need of the other for its own completeness, 
each has at times a mastery over the other. For the 
common sense, although it may see the practical in- 
applicability of the dictates of the imagination or abstract 
reason, yet cannot help submitting to them. These two 
characters possess the world, alternately and interchange- 

1 No estaha muy bien con. Ed. 2 Pero con todo. Ed. 

252 Course of Lectures 

ably the cheater and the cheated. To impersonate them, 
and to combine the permanent with the individual, is one 
of the highest creations of genius, and has been achieved 
by Cervantes and Shakspeare, almost alone. 

Observations on particular passages: 

B. I. c. I. But not altogether approving of his having broken it 
to pieces with so much ease, to secure himself from the like danger 
for the future, he made it over again, fencing it with small bars of 
iron within, in such a manner, that he rested satisfied of its strength ; 
and without caring to make a fresh experiment on it, he approved and 
looked upon it as a most excellent helmet. 

His not trying his improved scull-cap is an exquisite trait 
of human character, founded on the oppugnancy of the 
soul in such a state to any disturbance by doubt of its own 
broodings. Even the long deliberation about his horse's 
name is full of meaning ; — for in these day-dreams the 
greater part of the history passes and is carried on in words, 
which look forward to other words as what will be said of 

lb. Near the place where he lived, there dwelt a very comely 
country lass, with whom he had formerly been in love ; though, as 
it is supposed, she never knew it, nor troubled herself about it. 

The nascent love for the country lass, but without any 
attempt at utterance, or an opportunity of knowing her, 
except as the hint — the on Un — of the inward imagination, 
is happily conceived in both parts ; — first, as confirmative 
of the shrinking back of the mind on itself, and its dread of 
having a cherished image destroyed by its own judgment ; 
and secondly, as showing how necessarily love is the passion 
of novels. Novels are to love as fairy tales to dreams. I 
never knew but two men of taste and feeling who could not 
understand why I was delighted with the Arabian Nights' 
Tales, and they were likewise the only persons in my know- 
ledge who scarcely remembered having ever dreamed. 
Magic and war — itself a magic — are the day-dreams of 
childhood ; love is the day-dream of youth, and early 

C. 2. " Scarcely had ruddy Phoebus spread the golden tresses 
of his beauteous hair over the face of the wide and spacious eai-th ; 
and scarcely had the little painted birds, with the sweet and melli- 

Lecture VIII. 253 

fluous harmony of their forked tongues, saluted the approach of 
rosy Aurora, who, quitting the soft couch of her jealous husband, 
disclosed herself to mortals through the gates of the Mauchegan 
horizon ; when the renowned Don Quixote," &c. 

How happily already is the abstraction from the senses, 
from observation, and the consequent confusion of the 
judgment, marked in this description ! The knight is 
describing objects immediate to his senses and sensations 
without borrowing a single trait from either. Would it be 
difficult to find parallel descriptions in Dry den's plays and 
in those of his successors ? 

C. 3. The host is here happily conceived as one who from 
his past life as a sharper, was capable of entering into and 
humouring the knight, and so perfectly in character, that 
he precludes a considerable source of improbabihty in the 
future narrative, by enforcing upon Don Quixote the 
necessity of taking money with him. 

C. 3. " Ho, there, whoever thou art, rash knight, that ap- 
proachest to touch the arms of the most valorous adventurer that 
ever girded sword," &c. 

Don Quixote's high eulogiums on himself — " the most 
valorous adventurer ! " — but it is not himself that he has 
before him, but the idol of his imagination, the imaginary 
being whom he is acting. And this, that it is entirely a 
third person, excuses his heart from the otherwise inevit- 
able charge of selfish vanity ; and so by madness itself he 
preserves our esteem, and renders those actions natural by 
which he, the first person, deserves it. 

C. 4. Andres and his master. 

The manner in which Don Quixote redressed this wrong, 
is a picture of the true revolutionary passion in its first 
honest state, while it is yet only a bewilderment of the 
understanding. You have a benevolence limitless in its 
prayers, which are in fact aspirations towards omnipotence ; 
but between it and beneficence, the bridge of judgment — 
that is, of measurement of personal power — intervenes, 
and must be passed. Otherwise you will be bruised by the 
leap into the chasm, or be drowned in the revolutionary 
river, and drag others with you to the same fate. 

C. 4. Merchants of Toledo. 

When they were come so near as to be seen and heard, Don 
Quixote raised his voice, and with arrogant air cried out : " Let 

254 Course of Lectures 

the whole world stand ; if the whole world does not confess that 
there is not in the whole world a damsel more beautiful than," &c. 

Now mark the presumption which follows the self-com- 
placency of the last act ! That was an honest attempt to 
redress a real wrong ; this is an arbitrary determination to 
enforce a Brissotine or Rousseau's idesd on all his fellow 

Let the whole world stand ! 

*If there had been any experience in proof of the excellence 
of our code, where would be our superiority in this en- 
lightened age ?' 

" No ? the business is that without seeing her, you believe, 
confess, affirm, swear, and maintain it ; and if not, I challenge you 

all to battle." ^ 

Next see the persecution and fury excited by opposition 
however moderate ! The only words hstened to are those, 
that without their context and their conditionals, and trans- 
formed into positive assertions, might give some shadow of 
excuse for the violence showm ! This rich story ends, to 
the compassion of the men in their senses, in a sound rib- 
roasting of the idealist by the muleteer, the mob. And 
happy for thee, poor knight ! that the mob were against 
thee ! For had they been with thee, by the change of the 
moon and of them, thy head would have been off. 

C. 5, first part. The idealist recollects the causes that 
had been necessary to the reverse and attempts to remove 
them — too late. He is beaten and disgraced. 

C. 6. This chapter on Don Quixote's library proves that 
the author did not wish to destroy the romances, but to 
cause them to be read as romances — that is, for their merits 
as poetry. 

C. 7. Among other things, Don Quixote told him, he should 
dispose himself to go with him "wnllingly ; — for some time or other 
such an adventure might present, that an island might be won, in 
the turn of a hand, and he be left governor thereof. 

At length the promises of the imaginative reason begin to 
act on the plump, sensual, honest common sense accomplice, 
— but unhappily not in the same person, and without the 
copula of the judgment, — in hopes of the substantial good 

1 Donde no, Mnmigo sois en battalia., gente descomunal! Ed. 

Lecture VIII. 255 

things, of which the former contemplated only the glory and 
the colours. 

C. 7. Sancho Panza went riding upon his ass, like any patriarch, 
with his wallet and leathern bottle, and with a vehement desire to 
find himself governor of the island which his master had promised 

The first relief from regular labour is so pleasant to poor 
Sancho ! 

C. 8. " I no gentleman ! I swear by the great God. thou liest, 
as I am a Christian. Biscainer by land, gentleman by sea, gentle- 
man for the devil, and thou liest : look then if thou hast any thing 
else to say." 

This Biscainer is an excellent image of the prejudices and 
bigotry provoked by the idealism of a speculator. This 
story happily detects the trick which our imagination plays 
in the description of single combats : only change the pre- 
conception of the magnificence of the combatants, and all 
is gone. 

B. II. c. 2. " Be pleased, my lord Don Quixote, to bestow upon 
me the government of that island," &c. 

Sancho' s eagerness for his government, the nascent lust 
of actual democracy, or isocracy ! 

C. 2. " But tell me, on your life, have you ever seen a more 
valorous knight than I, upon the whole face of the known earth ? 
Have you read in story of any other, who has, or ever had, more 
bravery in assailing, more breath in holding out, more dexterity in 
wounding, or more address in giving a fall ? " — " The truth is," 
answered Sancho, " that I never read any history at all ; for I can 
neither read nor write ; but what I dare affirm is, that I never 
served a bolder master," &c. 

This appeal to Sancho, and Sancho's answer are ex- 
quisitely humorous. It is impossible not to think of the 
French bulletins and proclamations. Remark the necessity 
under which we are of being sympathized with, fly as high 
into abstraction as we may, and how constantly the 
imagination is recalled to the ground of our common 
humanity ! And note a little further on, the knight's easy 
vaunting of his balsam, and his quietly deferring the mak- 
ing and application of it. 

C. 3. The speech before the goatherds : 

" Happy times and happy ages," &c.* 

I Dichosa cdad y siglos dichoses aquellos, &'c. Ed. 


Course of Lectures 

Note the rhythm of this, and the admirable beauty and 
wisdom of the thoughts in themselves, but the total want 
of judgment in Don Quixote's addressing them to such an 

B. III. c. 3. Don Quixote's balsam, and the vomiting and 
consequent relief ; an excellent hit at panacea nostrums, 
which cure the patient by his being himself cured of the 
medicine by revolting nature. 

C. 4. " Peace ! and have patience ; the day will come," &c. 

The perpetual promises of the imagination ! 

lb. " Your Worship," said Sancho, " would make a better 
preacher than knight errant ! " 

Exactly so. This is the true moral. 

C. 6. The uncommon beauty of the description in the 
commencement of this chapter. In truth, the whole of it 
seems to put all nature in its heights, and its humiliations, 
before us. 

lb. Sancho's story of the goats : 

" Make account, he carried them all over," said Don Quixote, 
** and do not be going and coming in this manner ; for at this rate, 
you will not have done carrying them over in a twelvemonth." 
*' How many are passed already ? " said Sancho, &c. 

Observe the happy contrast between the all-generalizing 
mind of the mad knight, and Sancho's all-particularizing 
memory. How admirable a symbol of the dependence of 
all copula on the higher powers of the mind, with the single 
exception of the succession in time and the accidental 
relations of space. Men of mere common sense have no 
theory or means of making one fact more important or 
prominent than the rest ; if they lose one link, all is 
lost. Compare Mrs. Quickly and the Tapster.^ And 
note also Sancho's good heart, when his master is about 
to leave him. Don Quixote's conduct upon discovering 
the fulling-hammers, proves he was meant to be in his 
senses. Nothing can be better conceived than his fit of 
passion at Sancho's laughing, and his sophism of self- 
justification by the courage he had shown. 

Sancho is by this time cured, through experience, as far 
as his own errors are concerned ; yet still is he lured on by 

1 See the Friend, vol. iii. p. 138. £<i. 

Lecture VIII. 257 

the unconquerable awe of his master's superiority, even 
when he is cheating him. 

C. 8. The adventure of the Galley-slaves. I think this 
is the only passage of moment in which Cervantes slips the 
mask of his hero, and speaks for himself. 

C. 9. Don Quixote desired to have it, and bade him take the 
money, and keep it for himself. Sancho kissed his hands for the 
favour, &c. 

Observe Sancho' s eagerness to avail himself of the per- 
mission of his master, who, in the war sports of knight- 
errantry, had, without any selfish dishonesty, overlooked 
the meiim and tumn. Sancho's selfishness is modified by 
his involuntary goodness of heart, and Don Quixote's 
flighty goodness is debased by the involuntary or un- 
conscious selfishness of his vanity and self-applause. 

C. 10. Cardenio is the madman of passion, who meets 
and easily overthrows for the moment the madman of 
imagination. And note the contagion of madness of any 
kind, upon Don Quixote's interruption of Cardenio's story. 

C. II. Perhaps the best specimen of Sancho's pro- 
verbializing is this : 

" And I (Don Q.) sa}'' again, they He, and will lie two hundred 
times more, all who say, or think her so." " I neither say, nor 
think so," answered Sancho ; " let those who say it, eat the lie, 
and swallow it with their bread : whether they were guilty or no, 
they have given an account to God before now : I come from my 
vineyard, I know nothing ; I am no friend to inquiring into other 
men's lives ; for he that buys and lies shall find the lie left in his 
purse behind ; besides, naked was I born, and naked I remain ; I 
neither win nor lose ; if they were guilty, what is that to me ? 
Many think to find bacon, where there is not so much as a pin to 
hang it on : bul who can hedge in the cuckoo ? Especially, do 
they spare God himself ? " 

lb. " And it is no great matter, if it be in another hand ; for 
by what I remember, Dulcinea can neither write nor read," &c. 

The wonderful twilight of the mind ! and mark Cer- 
vantes's courage in daring to present it, and trust to a 
distant posterity for an appreciation of its truth to nature. 

P. II. B. III. c. 9. Sancho's account of what he had seen 
on Clavileno is a counterpart in his style to Don Quixote's 
adventures in the cave of Montesinos. This last is the only 
impeachment of the knight's moral character ; Cervantes 
just gives one instance of the veracity failing before the 
strong cravings of the imagination for something real and 

258 Course of Lectures 

external ; the picture would not have been complete with- 
out this ; and yet it is so well managed, that the reader has 
no unpleasant sense of Don Quixote having told a lie. It 
is evident that he hardly knows whether it was a dream or 
not ; and goes to the enchanter to inquire the real nature of 
the adventure. 

Summary of Cervantes. 

A Castilian of refined manners ; a gentleman, true to 
religion, and true to honour. 

A scholar and a soldier, and fought under the banners of 
Don John of Austria, at Lepanto, lost his arm and was 

Endured slavery not only with fortitude, but with mirth ; 
and by the superiority of nature, mastered and overawed 
his barbarian owner. 

Finally ransomed, he resumed his native destiny, the 
awful task of achieving fame ; and for that reason died 
poor and a prisoner, while nobles and kings over their 
goblets of gold gave relish to their pleasures by the charms 
of his divine genius. He was the inventor of novels for 
the Spaniards, and in his Persilis and Sigismunda, the 
English may find the germ of their Robinson Crusoe. 

The world was a drama to him. His own thoughts, in 
spite of poverty and sickness, perpetuated for him the 
feelings of youth. He painted only what he knew and had 
looked into, but he knew and had looked into much indeed ; 
and his imagination was ever at hand to adapt and modify 
the world of his experience. Of delicious love he fabled, 
yet with stainless virtue. 


On the Distinctions of the Witty, the Droll, the Odd, and the 
Humourous ; the Nature and Constituents of Humour : 
— Rabelais — Swift — Sterne. 


Perhaps the most important of our intellectual operations 
are those of detecting the difference in similar, and the 
identity in dissimilar, things. Out of the latter operation 

Lecture IX. 259 

it is that wit arises ; and it, generically regarded, consists 
in presenting thoughts or images in an unusual connection 
with each other, for the purpose of exciting pleasure by 
the surprise. This connection may be real ; and there is 
in fact a scientific wit ; though where the object, con- 
sciously entertained, is truth, and not amusement, we 
commonly give it some higher name. But in wit popularly 
understood, the connection may be, and for the most part 
is, apparent only, and transitory ; and this connection 
may be by thoughts, or by words, or by images. The first 
is our Butler's especial eminence ; the second, Voltaire's ; 
the third, which we oftener call fancy, constitutes the 
larger and more peculiar part of the wit of Shakspeare. 
You can scarcely turn to a single speech of Falstaff's 
without finding instances of it. Nor does wit always 
cease to deserve the name by being transient, or incapable 
of analysis. I may add that the wit of thoughts belongs 
eminently to the Italians, that of words to the French, 
and that of images to the English. 

II. Where the laughable is its own end, and neither 
inference, nor moral is intended, or where at least the 
writer would wish it so to appear, there arises what we 
call droUery. The pure, unmixed, ludicrous or laughable 
belongs exclusively to the understanding, and must be 
presented under the form of the senses ; it lies within the 
spheres of the eye and the ear, and hence is allied to the 
fancy. It does not appertain to the reason or the moral 
sense, and accordingly is alien to the imagination. I think 
Aristotle has already excellently defined ^ the laughable, 
ro yiXom, as consisting of, or depending on, what is out 
of its proper time and place, yet without danger or pain. 
Here the impropriety — rh aroirov — is the positive qualifi- 
cation ; the danger lessness — rh dx/vduvov — the negative. 
Neither the understanding without an object of the 
senses, as for example, a mere notional error, or idiocy ; 
— nor any external object, unless attributed to the under- 

1 He elsewhere commends this Def. : "To resolve laughter into an expression of 
contempt is contrary to fact, and laughable enough. Laughter is a convulsion of the 
nerves, and it seems as if nature cut short the rapid thrill of pleasure on the nerves by 
a sudden convulsion of them to prevent the sensation becoming painful — ArnstotU's 
Def. is as good as can be. Surprise at perceiving anything out of its usual place when 
the unusualness is not accompanied by a sense of serious danger. Such surprise is 
always pleasurable, and it is observable that surprise accompanied with circumstances 
of danger becomes Tragic. Hence Farce may often borcUr on Tragedy; indeed 
Farce is nearer Tragedy in its Essence than Comedy is. " 

Table Talk. 

26o Course of Lectures 

standing, can produce the poetically laughable. Nay, 
even in ridiculous positions of the body laughed at by the 
vulgar, there is a subtle personification always going on, 
which acts on the, perhaps, unconscious mind of the 
spectator as a symbol of intellectual character. And hence 
arises the imperfect and awkward effect of comic stories of 
animals ; because although the understanding is satisfied 
in them, the senses are not. Hence too, it is, that the true 
ludicrous is its own end. When serious satire commences, 
or satire that is felt as serious, however comically drest, 
free and genuine laughter ceases ; it becomes sardonic. 
This you experience in reading Young, and also not un- 
frequently in Butler. The true comic is the blossom of 
the nettle. 

III. When words or images are placed in unusual juxta- 
position rather than connection, and are so placed merely 
because the juxta-position is unusual — we have the odd or 
the grotesque ; the occasional use of which in the minor 
ornaments of architecture, is an interesting problem for a 
student in the psychology of the Fine Arts. 

IV. In the simply laughable there is a mere dispropor- 
tion between a definite act and a definite purpose or end, 
or a disproportion of the end itself to the rank or circum- 
stances of the definite person ; but humour is of more 
difficult description. I must try to define it in the first 
place by its points of diversity from the former species. 
Humour does not, like the different kinds of wit, which is 
impersonal, consist wholly in the understanding and the 
senses. No combination of thoughts, words, or images 
wiU of itself constitute humour, unless some peculiarity of 
individual temperament and character be indicated there- 
by, as the cause of the same. Compare the comedies of 
Congreve with the Falstaff in Henry IV. or with Sterne's 
Corporal Trim, Uncle Toby, and Mr. Shandy, or with 
some of Steele's charming papers in the Tatler, and you 
will feel the difference better than I can express it. Thus 
again (to take an instance from the different works of the 
same writer), in SmoUett's Strap, his Lieutenant Bowling, 
his Morgan the honest Welshman, and his Matthew 
Bramble, we have exquisite humour, — while in his Pere- 
grine Pickle we find an abundance of drollery, which too 
often degenerates into mere oddity ; in short, we feel that 
a number of things are put together to counterfeit humour. 

Lecture IX. 261 

but that there is no growth from within. And this indeed 
is the origin of the word, derived from the humoral patho- 
logy, and excellently described by Ben Jonson : 

So in every human body, 
The choler, melancholy, phlegm, and blood, 
By reason that they flow continually 
In some one part, and are not continent, 
Receive the name of humours. Now thus far 
It may, by metaphor, apply itself 
Unto the general disposition : 
As when some one peculiar quality 
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw 
All his effects, his spirits, and his powers. 
In their confluctions, all to run one way. 
This may be truly said to be a humour.^ 

Hence we may explain the congeniality of humour with 
pathos, so exquisite in Sterne and Smollett, and hence also 
the tender feeling which we always have for, and associate 
with, the humours or hobby-horses of a man. First, we 
respect a humourist, because absence of interested motive is 
the groundwork of the character, although the imagination 
of an interest may exist in the individual himself, as if a 
remarkably simple-hearted man should pride himself on his 
knowledge of the world, and how well he can manage it : 
— and secondly, there always is in a genuine humour an 
acknowledgment of the hoUowness and farce of the world, 
and its disproportion to the godlike within us. And it 
follows immediately from this, that whenever particular 
acts have reference to particular selfish motives, the 
humourous bursts into the indignant and abhorring ; 
whilst all follies not selfish are pardoned or palliated. 
The danger of this habit, in respect of pure morality, is 
strongly exemplified in Sterne. 

This would be enough, and indeed less than this has 
passed, for a sufficient account of humour, if we did not 
recollect that not every predominance of character, even 
where not precluded by the moral sense, as in criminal 
dispositions, constitutes what we mean by a humourist, 
or the presentation of its produce, humour. What then 
is it ? Is it manifold ? Or is there some one humorific 
point common to all that can be called humorous ? — I 
am not prepared to answer this fully, even if my time 
permitted ; but I think there is ; — and that it consists in 

1 Every Man Out Of His Humour. Prologue. 

262 Course of Lectures 

a certain reference to the general and the universal, by 
which the finite great is brought into identity with the 
little, or the little with the finite great, so as to make both 
nothing in comparison with the infinite. The little is 
made great, and the great little, in order to destroy both ; 
because all is equal in contrast with the infinite. " It is 
not without reason, brother Toby, that learned men write 
dialogues on long noses." ^ I would suggest, therefore, 
that whenever a finite is contemplated in reference to the 
infinite, whether consciously or unconsciously, humour 
essentially arises. In the highest humour, at least, there 
is always a reference to, and a connection with, some 
general power not finite, in the form of some finite ridicu- 
lously disproportionate in our feelings to that of which it 
is, nevertheless, the representative, or by which it is to be 
displayed. Humorous writers, therefore, as Sterne in 
particular, dehght, after much preparation, to end in 
nothing, or in a direct contradiction. 

That there is some truth in this definition, or origina- 
tion of humour, is evident ; for you cannot conceive a 
humorous man who does not give some disproportionate 
generahty, or even a universality to his hobby-horse, as is 
the case with Mr. Shandy ; or at least there is an absence 
of any interest but what arises from the humour itself, as 
in my Uncle Toby, and it is the idea of the soul, of its un- 
defined capacity and dignity, that gives the sting to any 
absorption of it by any one pursuit, and this not in respect 
of the humourist as a mere member of society for a par- 
ticular, however mistaken, interest, but as a man. 

The English humour is the most thoughtful, the Spanish 
the most etherial — the most ideal — of modern literature. 
Amongst the classic ancients there was Httle or no humour 
in the foregoing sense of the term. Socrates, or Plato under 
his name, gives some notion of humour in the Banquet, 
when he argues that tragedy and comedy rest upon the 
same ground. But humour properly took its rise in the 
middle ages ; and the Devil, the Vice of the mysteries, 
incorporates the modem humour in its elements. It is 
a spirit measured by disproportionate finites. The Devil 
is not, indeed, perfectly humorous ; but that is only be- 
cause he is the extreme of all humour, 

1 Trist. Sh. Vol. iii. c. w. 

Lecture IX. 263 


Bom at Chinon, 1483-4. — Died 1553. 

One cannot help regretting that no friend of Rabelais, 
(and surely friends he must have had), has left an authentic 
account of him. His buffoonery was not merely Brutus' 
rough stick, which contained a rod of gold ; it was 
necessary as an amulet against the monks and bigots. 
Beyond a doubt, he was among the deepest as well as 
boldest thinkers of his age. Never was a more plausible, 
and seldom, I am persuaded, a less appropriate line than 
the thousand times quoted, 

Rabelais laughing in his easy chair — 

of Mr. Pope. The caricature of his filth and zanyism 
proves how fully he both knew and felt the danger in which 
he stood. I could write a treatise in proof and praise of the 
morality and moral elevation of Rabelais* work which 
would make the church stare, and the conventicle groan, 
and yet should be the truth and nothing but the truth. I 
class Rabelais with the creative minds of the world, Shak- 
speare, Dante, Cervantes, &c. 

All Rabelais' personages are phantasmagoric allegories, 
but Panurge above all. He is throughout the -ravou^/Za, — 
the wisdom, that is, the cunning of the human animal, — 
the understanding, cls the faculty of means to purposes 
without ultimate ends, in a most comprehensive sense, and 
including art, sensuous fancy, and all the passions of the 
understanding. It is impossible to read Rabelais without 
an admiration mixed with wonder at the depth and extent 
of his learning, his multifarious knowledge, and original 
observation beyond what books could in that age have 
supplied him with. 

B. III. c. 9. How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel, 
whether he should marry, yea or no. 

Note this incomparable chapter. Pantagruel stands for 
the reason as contradistinguished from the understanding 

1 No note remains of that part of this Lecture which treated of Rabelais. This 
seems, therefore, a convenient place for the reception of some remarks written by Mr. 
C. in Mr. Gillman's copy of Rabelais, about the year 1825. See Table Talk, vol. i. p. 
177. Ed. 

264 Course of Lectures 

and choice, that is, from Panurge ; and the humour con- 
sists in the latter asking advice of the former on a subject 
in which the reason can only give the inevitable conclusion, 
the syllogistic ergo, from the premisses pro\'ided by the 
understanding itself, which puts each case so as of necessity 
to predetermine the verdict thereon. This chapter, in- 
dependently of the allegory, is an exquisite satire on the 
spirit in which people commonly ask advice. 


Bom in Dublin, 1667. — Died 1745. 

In Swift's writings there is a false misanthropy grounded 
upon an exclusive contemplation of the vices and follies of 
mankind, and this misanthropic tone is also disfigured or 
brutalized by his obtrusion of physical dirt and coarseness. 
I think Gulliver's Travels the great work of Swift. In the 
voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag he displays the little- 
ness and moral contemptibility of human nature ; in that 
to the Houyhnhnms he represents the disgusting spectacle 
of man with the understanding only, without the reason or 
the moral feeling, and in his horse he gives the misanthropic 
ideal of man — that is, a being virtuous from rule and duty, 
but untouched by the principle of love. 


Born at Clonmel, 1713. — Died 1768. 

With regard to Sterne, and the charge of licentiousness 
which presses so seriously upon his character as a writer, 
I would remark that there is a sort of knowingness, the wit 
of which depends — ist, on the modesty it gives pain to ; 
or, 2dly, on the innocence and innocent ignorance over 
which it triumphs ; or, 3dly, on a certain oscillation in the 
individual's own mind between the remaining good and the 
encroaching evil of his nature — a sort of dallying with the 
devil — afiuxionaryact of combining courage and cowardice, 
as when a man snuffs a candle with his fingers for the first 

1 From Mr. Green's note. Ed. 

Lecture IX. 265 

time, or better still, perhaps, like that trembling daring 
with which a child touches a hot tea urn, because it has 
been forbidden ; so that the mind has in its own white and 
black angel the same or similar amusement, as may be 
supposed to take place between an old debauchee and a 
prude, — she feeling resentment, on the one hand, from 
a prudential anxiety to preserve appearances and have a 
character, and, on the other, an inward sympathy with the 
enemy. We have only to suppose society innocent, and 
then nine-tenths of this sort of wit would be like a stone 
that falls in snow, making no sound because exciting no 
resistance ; the remainder rests on its being an offence 
against the good manners of human nature itself. 

This source, unworthy as it is, may doubtless be com- 
bined with wit, drollery, fancy, and even humour, and we 
have only to regret the misalliance ; but that the latter are 
quite distinct from the former, may be made evident by 
abstracting in our imagination the morality of the char- 
acters of Mr. Shandy, my Uncle Toby, and Trim, which 
are all antagonists to this spurious sort of wit, from the 
rest of Tristram Shandy. And by supposing, instead of 
them, the presence of two or three callous debauchees. 
The result will be pure disgust. Sterne cannot be too 
severely censured for thus using the best dispositions of 
our nature as the panders and condiments for the basest. 

The excellencies of Sterne consist — 

I. In bringing forward into distinct consciousness those 
minutiae of thought and feeling which appear trifles, yet 
have an importance for the moment, and which almost 
every man feels in one way or other. Thus is produced the 
novelty of an individual peculiarity, together with the 
interest of a something that belongs to our common nature. 
In short, Sterne seizes happily on those points, in which 
every man is more or less a humourist. And, indeed, to 
be a little more subtle, the propensity to notice these things 
does itself constitute the humourist, and the superadded 
power of so presenting them to men in general gives us the 
man of humour. Hence the difference of the man of 
humour, the effect of whose portraits does not depend on 
the felt presence of himself, as a humourist, as in the in- 
stances of Cervantes and Shakspeare — nay, of Rabelais too ; 
and of the humourist, the effect of whose works does very 
much depend on the sense of his own oddity, as in Sterne's 

266 Course of Lectures 

case, and perhaps Swift's ; though Swift again would 
require a separate classification. 

2. In the traits of human nature, which so easily assume 
a particular cast and colour from individual character. 
Hence this excellence and the pathos connected with it 
quickly pass into humour, and form the ground of it. See 
particularly the beautiful passage, so well known, of Uncle 
Toby's catching and liberating the fly : 

" Go," — says he, one day at dinner, to an overgrown one which 
had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinner- 
time, and which, after infinite attempts, he had caught at last, as 
it flew by him ; — " I'll not hurt thee," says my Uncle Toby, rising 
from his chair, and going across the room, with the fly in his hand, 
— " I'll not hurt a hair of thy head : — " Go," says he, lifting up the 
sash, and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape ; — " go, 
poor devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee ? This world is 
surely wide enough to hold both thee and me." Vol. ii. ch. 12. 

Observe in this incident how individual character may be 
given by the mere delicacy of presentation and elevation 
in degree of a common good quality, humanity, which in 
itself would not be characteristic at all. 

3. In Mr. Shandy's character, — the essence of which is 
a craving for sympathy in exact proportion to the oddity 
and unsympathizability of what he proposes ; — this 
coupled with an instinctive desire to be at least disputed 
with, or rather both in one, to dispute and yet to agree — 
and holding as worst of all — to acquiesce without either 
resistance or sjmipathy. This is charmingly, indeed, pro- 
foundly conceived, and is psychologically and ethically 
true of all Mr. Shandies. Note, too, how the contrasts of 
character, which are always either balanced or remedied, 
increase the love between the brothers. 

4. No writer is so happy as Sterne in the unexaggerated 
and truly natural representation of that species of slander, 
which consists in gossiping about our neighbours, as whet- 
stones of our moral discrimination ; as if they were 
conscience-blocks which we used in our apprenticeship, 
in order not to waste such precious materials as our own 
consciences in the trimming and shaping of ourselves by 
self-examination : — 

Alas o'day ! — had Mrs. Shandy, (poor gentlewoman !) had but 
her wish in going up to town just to lie in and come down again ; 

Lecture IX. 267 

which, they say, she begged and prayed for upon her bare knees, 
and which, in my opinion, considering the fortune which Mr. 
Shandy got with her, was no such mighty matter to have complied 
with, the lady and her babe might both of them have been alive at 
this hour. Vol. i. c. i8. 

5. When you have secured a man's Hkings and pre- 
judices in your favour, you may then safely appeal to his 
impartial judgment. In the following passage not only 
is acute sense shrouded in wit, but a life and a character 
are added which exalt the whole into the dramatic : — 

" I see plainly. Sir, by your looks " (or as the case happened) my 
father would say — " that you do not heartily subscribe to this 
opinion of mine — which, to those," he would add, " who have not 
carefully sifted it to the bottom, — I own has an air more of fancy 
than of solid reasoning in it ; and yet, my dear Sir, if I may pre- 
sume to know your character, I am morally assured I should 
hazard little in stating a case to you, not as a party in the dispute, 
but as a judge, and trusting my appeal upon it to your good sense 
and candid disquisition in this matter ; you are a persoA free from 
as many narrow prejudices of education as most men ; and, if I may 
presume to penetrate farther into you, of a liberality of genius 
above bearing down an opinion, merely because it wants friends. 
Your son, — your dear son, — from whose sweet and open temper 
you have so much to expect, — your Billy, Sir ! — would you, 
for the world, have called him Judas ? Would you, my dear 
Sir," he would say, laying his hand upon your breast, with the 
genteelest address, — and in that soft and irresistible piano of voice, 
which the nature of the argumentum ad hominem absolutely re- 
quires, — " Would you, Sir, if a Jew of a godfather had proposed 
the name for your child, and offered you his purse along with it, 
would you have consented to such a desecration of him ? O my 
God ! " he would say, looking up, " if I know your temper rightly. 
Sir, you are incapable of it ; — you would have trampled upon the 
offer ; — you would have thrown the temptation at the tempter's 
head with abhorrence. Your greatness of mind in this action, 
which I admire, with that generous contempt of money, which 
you show me in the whole transaction, is really noble ; — and what 
renders it more so, is the principle of it ; — the workings of a parent's 
love upon the truth and conviction of this very hypothesis, namely, 
that were your son called Judas, — the sordid and treacherous idea, 
so inseparable from the name, would have accompanied him through 
life like his shadow, and in the end made a miser and a rascal of 
him, in spite. Sir, of your example." Vol. i. c. 19. 

6. There is great physiognomic tact in Sterne. See it 
particularly displayed in his description of Dr. Slop, 
accompanied with all that happiest use of drapery and 
attitude, which at once give reality by individualizing and 
vividness by unusual, yet probable, combinations : — 

Imagine to yourself a little squat uncourtly figure of a Doctor 

268 Course of Lectures 

Slop, of about four feet and a half perpendicular height, with a 
breadth of back, and a sesquipedality of belly, which might have 
done honour to a serjeant in the horseguards. 

« * K * * 

Imagine such a one ; — for such, I say, were the outlines of Doctor 
Slop's figure, coming slowly along, foot by foot, waddling through 
the dirt upon the vertebrce of a little diminutive pony, of a pretty 
colour — but of strength, — alack ! scarce able to have made an 
amble of it, under such a fardel, had the roads been in an ambling 
condition ; — they were not. Imagine to yourself Obadiah mounted 
upon a strong monster of a coach-horse, pricked into a full gallop, 
and making all practicable speed the adverse way. Vol. ii. c. 9. 

7. I think there is more humour in the single remark, 
which I have quoted before — " Learned men, brother 
Toby, don't write dialogues upon long noses for nothing ! " 
— than in the whole Slawkenburghian tale that follows, 
which is mere oddity interspersed with drollery. ^ 

8. Note Sterne's assertion of, and faith in a moral good 
in the characters of Trim, Toby, &c. as contrasted with the 
cold scepticism of motives which is the stamp of the 
Jacobin spirit. Vol. v. c. 9. 

9. You must bear in mind, in order to do justice to 
Rabelais and Sterne, that by right of humoristic univer- 
sality each part is essentially a whole in itself. Hence the 
digressive spirit is not mere wantonness, but in fact the 
very form and vehicle of their genius. The connection, 
such as was needed, is given by the continuity of the 

Instances of different forms of wit, taken largely : 

1. " Why are you reading romances at your age ? " — " Why, 1 
used to be fond of history, but I have given it up, — it was so grossly 

2. " Pray, sir, do it ! — although you have promised me." 

3. The Spartan's mother — 

" Return with, or on, thy shield." 

" My sword is too short ! " — " Take a step forwarder." 

4. The Gasconade : — 

" I believe you, Sir ! but you will excuse my repeating it on 
account of my provincial accent." 

5. Pasquil on Pope Urban, who had employed a com- 
mittee to rip up the old errors of his predecessors. 

Some one placed a pair of spurs on the heels of the 

Lecture X. 269 

statue of St. Peter, and a label from the opposite statue 
of St. Paul, on the same bridge ; — 

St. Paul. " Whither then are you bound ? " 

Si. Peter. " I apprehend danger here ; — they'll soon call me in 
question for denying my Master." 

St. Paul. " Nay, then, I had better be off too ; for they'll question 
me for having persecuted the Christians, before my conversion." 

6. Speaking of the small German potentates, I dictated 
the phrase, — officious for equivalents. This my amanu- 
ensis wrote, — fishing for elephants ; — which, as I observed 
at the time, was a sort of Noah's angling, that could 
hardly have occurred, except at the commencement of the 


Donne — Dante — Milton — Paradise Lost. 

Born in London, 1573. — Died, 1631. 

With Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots, 
Wreathe iron pokers into true-love knots ; 
Rhyme's sturdy cripple, fancy's maze and clue, 
Wit's forge and fire-blast, meaning's press and screw. 


See lewdness and theology combin'd, — 

A cynic and a sycophantic mind ; 

A fancy shar'd party per pale between 

Death's heads and skeletons, and Aretine ! — 

Not his peculiar defect or crime, 

But the true current mintage of the time. 

Such were the establish'd signs and tokens given 

To mark a loyal churchman, sound and even. 

Free from papistic and fanatic leaven. 

The wit of Donne, the wit of Butler, the wit of Pope, the 
wit of Congreve, the wit of Sheridan — how many disparate 
things are here expressed by one and the same word. Wit ! 

1 Nothing remains of what was said on Donne in this Lecture. Here, therefore, as 
in previous like instances, the gap is filled up with some notes written by Mr. Coleridge 
in a volume of Chalmers' Poets, belonging to Mr. Gillman. The verses were added in 

270 Course of Lectures 

— Wonder-exciting vigour, intenseness and peculiarity of 
thought, using at will the almost boundless stores of a 
capacious memory, and exercised on subjects, where we 
have no right to expect it — this is the wit of Donne ! The 
four others I am just in the mood to describe and inter- 
distinguish ; — what a pity that the marginal space will 
not let me ! 

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, 
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ; 
Where can we find two fitter hemispheres 
Without sharp north, without decHning west ? 

Good -Morrow, v. 15, &c. 

The sense is ; — Our mutual loves may in many respects 
be fitly compared to corresponding hemispheres ; but as 
no simile squares [nihil simile est idem), so here the simile 
fails, for there is nothing in our loves that corresponds to 
the cold north, or the declining west, which in two hemi- 
spheres must necessarily be supposed. But an ellipse of 
such length will scarcely rescue the line from the charge 
of nonsense or a bull. January, 1829. 

Woman's constancy. 

A misnomer. The title ought to be — 

Mutual Inconstancy. 

WTiether both th' Indias of spice and mine, &c. 

Sun Rising, v. 17. 
And see at night thy western land of mine, &c. 

Progress of the Soul, i Song, 2. st. 

This use of the word mim specifically for mines of gold, 
silver, or precious stones, is, I believe, peculiar to Donne. 


Bom at Florence, 1265. — Died, 1321. 

As I remarked in a former Lecture on a different subject 
(for subjects the most diverse in literature have still their 
tangents), the Gothic character, and its good and evil 
fruits, appeared less in Italy than in any other part of 
European Christendom. There was accordingly much less 
romance, as that word is commonly understood ; or, 

pencil to the collection of commendatory lines ; No. I. is Mr. C.'s ; the publication of 
No. II. I trust the all-accomplished author will, under the circumstances, pardon. 
Numerous and elaborate notes by Mr. Coleridge on Donne's Sermons are in exktence, 
and will be published hereafter. EtJ. 

Lecture X. 271 

perhaps, more truly stated, there was romance instead of 
chivalry. In Italy, an earlier imitation of, and a more 
evident and intentional blending with, the Latin hterature 
took place than elsewhere. The operation of the feudal 
system, too, was incalculably weaker, of that singular 
chain of independent interdependents, the principle of 
which was a confederacy for the preservation of individual, 
consistently with general, freedom. In short, Italy, in the 
time of Dante, was an after-birth of eldest Greece, a 
renewal or a reflex of the old Italy under its kings and first 
Roman consuls, a net-work of free little republics, with 
the same domestic feuds, civil wars, and party spirit, — 
the same vices and virtues produced on a similarly narrow 
theatre, — the existing state of things being, as in all small 
democracies, under the working and direction of certain 
individuals, to whose will even the laws were swayed ; — 
whilst at the same time the singular spectacle was ex- 
hibited amidst aU this confusion of the flourishing of 
commerce, and the protection and encouragement of 
letters and arts. Never was the commercial spirit so well 
reconciled to the nobler principles of social pohty as in 
Florence. It tended there to union and permanence and 
elevation, — not as the overbalance of it in England is now 
doing, to dislocation, change and moral degradation. 
The intensest patriotism reigned in these communities, 
but confined and attached exclusively to the small locality 
of the patriot's birth and residence ; whereas in the true 
Gothic feudalism, country was nothing but the preserva- 
tion of personal independence. But then, on the other 
hand, as a counterbalance to these disuniting elements, 
there was in Dante's Italy, as in Greece, a much greater 
uniformity of religion common to all than amongst the 
northern nations. 

Upon these hints the history of the repubhcan seras of 
ancient Greece and modern Italy ought to be written. 
There are three kinds or stages of historic narrative ; — 
I. that of the annalist or chronicler, who deals merely in 
facts and events arranged in order of time, having no prin- 
ciple of selection, no plan of arrangement, and whose work 
properly constitutes a supplement to the poetical writings 
of romance or heroic legends : — 2. that of the writer who 
takes his stand on some moral point, and selects a series of 
events for the express purpose of illustrating it, and in 

272 Course of Lectures 

whose hands the narrative of the selected events is modified 
by the principle of selection ; — as Thucydides, whose object 
was to describe the evils of democratic and aristocratic 
partizanships ; — or Polybius, whose design was to show the 
social benefits resulting from the triumph and grandeur of 
Rome, in public institutions and military discipline ; — or 
Tacitus, whose secret aim was to exhibit the pressure and 
corruptions of despotism ; — in all which writers and others 
hke them, the ground-object of the historian colours with 
artificial lights the facts which he relates : — 3. and which in 
idea is the grandest — the most truly founded in philosophy 
— there is the Herodotean history, which is not composed 
with reference to any particular causes, but attempts to 
describe human nature itself on a great scale as a portion of 
the drama of providence, the free will of man resisting the 
destiny of events, — for the individuals often succeeding 
against it, but for the race always yielding to it, and in the 
resistance itself invariably affording means towards the 
completion of the ultimate result. Mitford's history is a 
good and useful work ; but in his zeal against democratic 
government, Mitford forgot, or never saw, that ancient 
Greece was not, nor ought ever to be considered, a per- 
manent thing, but that it existed, in the disposition of pro- 
vidence, as a proclaimer of ideal truths, and that everlast- 
ing proclamation being made, that its functions were 
naturally at an end. 

However, in the height of such a state of society in Italy, 
Dante was born and flourished ; and was himself eminently 
a picture of the age in which he lived. But of more im- 
portance even than this, to a right understanding of Dante, 
is the consideration that the scholastic philosophy was 
then at its acme even in itself ; but more especially in Italy, 
where it never prevailed so exclusively as northward of 
the Alps. It is impossible to understand the genius of 
Dante, and difficult to understand his poem, without some 
knowledge of the characters, studies, and writings of the 
schoolmen of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth 
centuries. For Dante was the living link between religion 
and philosophy ; he philosophized the religion and chris- 
tianized the philosophy of Italy ; and, in this poetic union 
of religion and philosophy, he became the ground of tran- 
sition into the mixed Platonism and Aristotelianism of the 
Schools, under which, by numerous minute articles of faith 

Lecture X. 273 

and ceremony, Christianity became a craft of hair-splitting, 
and was ultimately degraded into a complete fetisch 
worship, divorced from philosophy, and made up of a faith 
without thought, and a credulity directed by passion. 
Afterwards, indeed, philosophy revived under condition of 
defending this very superstition ; and, in so doing, it 
necessarily led the way to its subversion, and that in exact 
proportion to the influence of the philosophic schools. 
Hence it did its work most completely in Germany, then in 
England, next in France, then in Spain, least of all in Italy. 
We must, therefore, take the poetry of Dante as chris- 
tianized, but without the further Gothic accession of proper 
chivalry. It was at a somewhat later period, that the 
importations from the East, through the Venetian com- 
merce and the crusading armaments, exercised a pecu- 
liarly strong influence on Italy. 

In studying Dante, therefore, we must consider carefully 
the differences produced, first, by allegory being sub- 
stituted for polytheism ; and secondly and mainly, by the 
opposition of Christianity to the spirit of pagan Greece, 
which receiving the very names of its gods from Egypt, 
soon deprived them of all that was universal. The Greeks 
changed the ideas into finites, and these finites into anthro- 
pomorphi, or forms of men. Hence their religion, their 
poetry, nay, their very pictures, became statuesque. With 
them the form was the end. The reverse of this was the 
natural effect of Christianity ; in which finites, even the 
human form, must, in order to satisfy the mind, be brought 
into connexion with, and be in fact s3mibolical of, the 
infinite ; and must be considered in some enduring, how- 
ever shadowy and indistinct, point of view, as the vehicle 
or representative of moral truth. 

Hence resulted two great effects ; a combination of 
poetry with doctrine, and, by turning the mind inward on 
its own essence instead of letting it act only on its outward 
circumstances and communities, a combination of poetry 
with sentiment. And it is this inwardness or subjectivity, 
which principally and most fundamentally distinguishes all 
the classic from all the modern poetry. Compare the 
passage in the Iliad (Z". vi. 119 — 236) in which Diomed and 
Glaucus change arms, — 

Xe?pds t' aSXrjKtJiv Xa^iTrjv Kal inaTwcavTO — 

They took each other by the hand, and pledged friendship — 

274 Course of Lectures 

with the scene in Ariosto (Orlando Furioso, c. i. st. 20-22), 
where Rinaldo and Ferrauto fight and afterwards make it 
up : — 

Al Pagan la proposta non dispiacque : 
Cosl fu difierita la tenzone ; 
E tal tregua tra lor subito nacque, 
81 r odio e 1' ira va in oblivione, 
Che '1 Pagano al partir dalle fresche acque 
Non lascio a piede il buon figliuol d' Amone ; 
Con preghi invita, e al tin lo toglie in groppa, 
E per r orme d' Angelica galoppa. 

Here Homer would have left it. But the Christian poet 
has his own feelings to express, and goes on : — 

Oh gran bonta de' cavalieri antiqui I 
Eran rivali, eran di fe diversi, 
E si sentian degli aspri colpi iniqui 
Per tutta la persona anco dolersi ; 
E pur per selve oscure e calli obbliqui 
Insieme van senza sospetto aversi ! 

And here you will observe, that the reaction of Ariosto's 
own feelings on the image or act is more fore-grounded (to 
use a painter's phrase) than the image or act itself. 

The two different modes in which the imagination is 
acted on by the ancient and modern poetry, may be illus- 
trated by the parallel effects caused by the contemplation 
of the Greek or Roman-Greek architecture, compared with 
the Gothic. In the Pantheon, the whole is perceived in a 
perceived harmony with the parts which compose it ; and 
generally you will remember that where the parts preserve 
any distinct individuality, there simple beauty, or beauty 
simply, arises ; but where the parts melt undistinguished 
into the whole, there majestic beaut}^ or majesty, is the 
result. In York Minster, the parts, the grotesques, are in 
themselves very sharply distinct and separate, and this 
distinction and separation of the parts is counterbalanced 
only by the multitude and variety of those parts, by which 
the attention is bewildered ; — whilst the whole, or that 
there is a whole produced, is altogether a feeling in which 
the several thousand distinct impressions lose themselves 
as in a universal solvent. Hence in a Gothic cathedral, as 
in a prospect from a mountain's top, there is, indeed, a 
unity, an awful oneness ; — but it is, because all distinction 

Lecture X. 275 

evades the eye. And just such is the distinction between, 
the Antigone of Sophocles and the Hamlet of Shakspeare.^ 

The Divina Commedia is a system of moral, political, 
and theological truths, with arbitrary personal exempli- 
fications, which are not, in my opinion, allegorical. I do not 
even feel convinced that the punishments in the Inferno are 
strictly allegorical. I rather take them to have been in 
Dante's mind quasi-a.]le§oncal, or conceived in analogy to 
pure allegory. 

I have said, that a combination of poetry with doctrines, 
is one of the characteristics of the Christian muse ; but I 
think Dante has not succeeded in effecting this combination 
nearly so well as Milton. 

This comparative failure of Dante, as also some other 
peculiarities of his mind, in malam partem, must be im- 
mediately attributed to the state of North Italy in his time, 
which is vividly represented in Dante's life; a state of 
intense democratical partizanship, in which an exaggerated 
importance was attached to individuals, and which whilst it 
afforded a vast field for the intellect, opened also a bound- 
less arena for the passions, and in which envy, jealousy, 
hatred, and other malignant feelings could and did as- 
sume the form of patriotism, even to the individual's 
own conscience. 

All this common, and, as it were, natural partizanship, 
was aggravated and coloured by the Guelf and GhibeUine 
factions ; and, in part explanation of Dante's adherence 
to the latter, you must particularly remark, that the Pope 
had recently territorialized his authority to a great extent, 
and that this increase of territorial power in the church, 
was by no means the same beneficial movement for the 
citizens of free republics, as the parallel advance in other 
countries was for those who groaned as vassals under the 
oppression of the circumjacent baronial castles. ^ 

By way of preparation to a satisfactory perusal of the 
Divina Commedia, I will now proceed to state what I 
consider to be Dante's chief excellences as a poet. And I 
begin with 

I. Style — the vividness, logical connexion, strength 
and energy of which cannot be surpassed. In this I think 

1 See Lect. I. p. 218, and note: and compere with Schlegel's Dram. VorUsung. 
Essay on Shakspeare, p. 12. 

2 Mr. Coleridge here notes : " I will, If I can, here make an hbtorical movement, and 
pay a proper compliment, tu Mr. f^Iallam." Ed. 

276 Course of Lectures 

Dante superior to Milton ; and his style is accordingly 
more imitable than Milton's, and does to this day exercise 
a greater influence on the literature of his count^3^ You 
cannot read Dante without feeling a gush of manliness of 
thought within j^ou. Dante was very sensible of his own 
excellence in this particular, and speaks of poets as 
guardians of the vast armory of language, which is the 
intermediate something between matter and spirit : — 

Or se' tu quel Virgilio, e quella fonte, 
Che spande di parlar si largo fiume ? 
Risposi lui con vergognosa fronte. 

O degli altri poeti onore e lume, 
Vagliami '1 lungo studio e '1 grande amore, 
Che m' han fatto cercar lo tuo volume. 

Tu se' lo mio maestro, e '1 mio autore : 
Tu se' solo colui, da cii' to tolsi 
Lo hello stile, che m' ha fatto onore. 

Inf. c. I. V. 79. 

" And art thou then that Virgil, that well-spring, 
From which such copious floods of eloquence 
Have issued ? " I, with front abash'd, replied : 

" Glory and light of all the tuneful train ! 
May it avail me, that I long with zeal 
Have sought thy volume, and with love immense 
Have conn'd it o'er. My master, thou, and guide I 
Thou he from whom I have alone derived 
That style, ivhich for its beauty into fame 
Exalts me," Gary. 

Indeed there was a passion and a miracle of words in the 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, after the long slumber 
of language in barbarism, which gave an almost romantic 
character, a virtuous quality and power, to what was read 
in a book, independently of the thoughts or images con- 
tained in it. This feeling is very often perceptible in 

II. The Images in Dante are not only taken from 
obvious nature, and are all intelligible to all, but are ever 
conjoined with the universal feeling received from nature, 
and therefore affect the general feelings of all men. And 
in this respect, Dante's excellence is very great, and may 
be contrasted with the idiosyncracies of some meritorious 
modern poets, who attempt an eruditeness, the result of 
particular feelings. Consider the simplicity, I may say 
plainness, of the following simile, and how differently we 
should in all probability deal with it at the present day : 

Lecture X. 277 

Quale i fioretti dal notturno gelo 
Chinati e chiusi, poi che '1 sol gl' imbianca, 
Si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo, — 

Fal mi fee' io di mia virtute stanca : 

Inf. c. 2. V. 127. 

As florets, by the frosty air of night 

Bent down and clos'd, when day has blanch'd their leaves. 

Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems, — 

So was my fainting vigour new restor'd. 


III. Consider the wonderful profoundness of the whole 
third canto of the Inferno ; and especially of the inscription 
over Hell gate : 

Per me si va, &c. — 

which can only be explained by a meditation on the true 
nature of religion ; that is, — reason plus the understand- 
ing. I say profoundness rather than sublimity ; for 
Dante does not so much elevate your thoughts as send 
them down deeper. In this canto all the images are 
distinct, and even vividly distinct ; but there is a total 
impression of infinity ; the wholeness is not in vision or 
conception, but in an inner feeling of totality, and absolute 

IV. In picturesqueness, Dante is beyond all other poets, 
modern, or ancient, and more in the stern style of Pindar, 
than of any other. Michael Angelo is said to have made 
a design for every page of the Divina Commedia. As 
superexcellent in this respect, I would note the conclusion 
of the third canto of the Inferno : 

Ed ecco verso noi venir per nave 
Un vecchio bianco per antico pelo 
Gridaudo : guai a voi anime prave : &c. 

Ycx. S2. &c. 
And lo ! toward us in a bark 
Comes on an old man, hoary white with eld. 
Crying, " Woe to you, wicked spirits ! " 



Caron dimonio con occhi di bragia 
Loro accennando, tutte le raccoglie : 
Batte col remo qualunque s' adagia. 

Come d' autunno si levan le foglie 

1 Mr. Coleridge here notes : " Here to speak of Mr. Gary's translation. —Ed, 

278 Course of Lectures 

L' una appresso dell' altra, infin che '1 ramo 
Rende alia terra tutte le sue spoglie ; 

Similemente il mal seme d' Adamo, 
Gittansi di quel lito ad una ad una 
Per cenni, com' augel per suo richiamo. 

Ver. roo, &c. 

Charon, demoniac form. 

With eyes of burning coal, collects them all, 

Beck'ning, and each that lingers, with his oar 

Strikes. As fall off the light autumnal leaves, 

One still another following, till the bough 

Strews all its honours on the earth beneath ; — 

E'en in like manner Adam's evil brood 

Cast themselves one by one down from the shore 

Each at a beck, as falcon at his call. Cary. 

And this passage, which I think admirably picturesque 

Ma poco valse, che 1' ale al sospetto 
Non potero avanzar : quegli ando sotto. 
E quei drizzo, volando, suso il petto : 

Non altrimenti 1' anitra di botto, 
Quando '1 falcon s' appressa, giu s' attuffa, 
Ed ei ritoma su crucciato e rotto. 

Irato Calcabrina della buffa, 
Volando dietro gli tenne, invaghito, 
Che quei campasse, per aver la zuffa : 

E come '1 barattier fu disparito, 
Cosi volse gli artigli al suo compagno, 
E fu con lui sovra '1 fosso ghermito. 

Ma r altro fu bene sparvier grifagno 
Ad artigliar ben lui, e amedue 
Cadder nel mezzo del bollente stagno. 

Lo caldo sghermidor subito fue : 
Ma pero di levarsi era niente. 
Si aveano inviscate 1' ale sue. 

Infer, c. xxii. ver. 127, &c. 

But little it avail'd : terror outstripp'd 
His following flight : the other plung'd beneath. 
And he with upward pinion rais'd his breast : 
E'en thus the water-fowl, when she perceives 
The falcon near, dives instant down, while he 
Enrag'd and spent retires. That mockery 
In Calcabrina fury stirr'd, who flew 
After him, with desire of strife inflam'd ; 
And, for the barterer had 'scap'd, so tum'd 
His talons on his comrade. O'er the dyke 
In grapple close they join'd ; but th' other prov'd 
A goshawk, able to rend well his foe ; 
And in the boiling lake both fell. The heat 
Was umpire soon between them, but in vain 
lo lift themselves they strove, so fast were glued 
Their pennons. Cary, 

Lecture X. 279 

V. Very closely connected with this picturesqueness, 
is the topographic reaUty of Dante's journey through Hell. 
You should note and dwell on this as one of his great 
charms, and which gives a striking peculiarity to his poetic 
power. He thus takes the thousand delusive forms of a 
nature worse than chaos, having no reality but from the 
passions which they excite, and compels them into the 
service of the permanent. Observe the exceeding truth 
of these lines : 

Noi ricidemmo '1 cerchio all' altra riva, 
Sovr' una fonte che bolle, e riversa, 
Per un fossato che da lei diriva. 

L' acqua era buja molto piu che persa : 
E noi in compagnia dell' onde bige 
Entrammo giu per una via diversa, 

Una palude fa, ch' ha nome Stige, 
Questo tristo ruscel, quando e disceso 
Al pie delle maligne piagge grige. 

Ed io che di mirar mi stava inteso, — 
Vidi genti fangose in quel pantano 
Ignude tutte, e con sembiante offeso. 

Questi si percotean non pur con mano. 
Ma con la testa, e col petto, e co' piedi, 
Troncandosi co' denti a brano a brano. 

» * * « * « 

Cosl girammo della lorda pozza 
Grand' arco tra la ripa secca e '1 mezzo, 
Con gli occhi volti a chi del fango ingozza : 

Venimmo appie d' una torre al dassezzo. 

C. vii. ver. lOO and 127, 

We the circle cross' d 

To the next steep, arriving at a well. 

That boiling pours itself down to a foss 

Sluic'd from its source. Far murkier was the wave 

Than sablest grain : and we in company 

Of th' inky waters, journeying by their side, 

Enter'd, though by a different track, beneath. 

Into a lake, the Stygian nam'd, expands 

The dismal stream, when it hath reach'd the foot 

Of the grey wither'd cliffs. Intent I stood 

To gaze, and in the marsh sunk, descried 

A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks 

Betok'ning rage. They with their hands alone 

Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet, 

Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs. 

Our route 

Thus compass'd, we a segment widely stretch'd 
Between the dry embankment and the cove 

28o Course of Lectures 

Of the loath' d pool, turning meanwhile our eyes 
Downward on those who gulp'd its muddy lees ; 
Nor stopp'd, till to a tower's low base we came. 


VI. For Dante's power, — his absolute mastery over, 
although rare exhibition of, the pathetic, I can do no 
more than refer to the passages on Francesca di Rimini 
(Infer. C. v. ver. 73 to the end) and on Ugolino, (Infer. C. 
xxxiii. ver. i to 75.) They are so well known, and rightly 
so admired, that it would be pedantry to analyze their 
composition ; but you will note that the first is the pathos 
of passion, the second that of affection ; and yet even in 
the first, you seem to perceive that the lovers have sacrificed 
their passion to the cherishing of a deep and rememberable 

VII. As to going into the endless subtle beauties of 
Dante, that is impossible ; but I cannot help citing the 
first triplet of the 29th canto of the Inferno : 

La molta gente e le diverse piaghe 
Avean le luci mie si inebriate, 
Che dello stare a piangere eran vaghe. 

So were mine eyes inebriate with the view 
Of the vast multitude, whom various wounds 
Disfigur'd, that they long'd to stay and weep. 


Nor have I now room for any specific comparison of Dante 
with Milton. But if I had, I would institute it upon the 
ground of the last canto of the Inferno from the ist to the 
69th line, and from the io6th to the end. And in this 
comparison I should notice Dante's occasional fault of 
becoming grotesque from being too graphic without 
imagination ; as in his Lucifer compared with Milton's 
Satan. Indeed he is sometimes horrible rather than 
terrible, — falling into the fiidrirbv instead of the dsmv of 
Longinus ; ^ in other words, many of his images excite 
bodily disgust, and not moral fear. But here, as in other 
cases, you may perceive that the faults of great authors 
are generally excellencies carried to an excess. 

1 De Subl. I ix. 

Lecture X. 281 

Born in London, 1608. — Died, 1674. 

If we divide the period from the accession of Elizabeth 
to the Protectorate of Cromwell into two unequal portions, 
the first ending with the death of James I. the other com- 
prehending the reign of Charles and the brief glories of the 
Republic, we are forcibly struck with a difference in the 
character of the illustrious actors, by whom each period is 
rendered severally memorable. Or rather, the difference in 
the characters of the great men in each period, leads us to 
make this division. Eminent as the intellectual powers 
were that were displayed in both ; yet in the number of 
great men, in the various sorts of excellence, and not merely 
in the variety but almost diversity of talents united in the 
same individual, the age of Charles falls short of its pre- 
decessor ; and the stars of the ParUament, keen as their 
radiance was, in fulness and richness of lustre, yield to the 
constellation at the court of Elizabeth ; — which can only be 
paralleled by Greece in her brightest moment, when the 
titles of the poet, the philosopher, the historian, the states- 
man and the general not seldom formed a garland round the 
same head, as in the instances of our Sidneys and Raleighs. 
But then, on the other hand, there was a vehemence of 
will, an enthusiasm of principle, a depth and an earnestness 
of spirit, which the charms of individual fame and personal 
aggrandisement could not pacify, — an aspiration after 
reality, permanence, and general good, — in short, a moral 
grandeur in the latter period, with which the low intrigues, 
Machiavellic maxims, and selfish and servile ambition of 
the former, stand in painful contrast. 

The causes of this it belongs not to the present occasion 
to detail at length ; but a mere allusion to the quick 
succession of revolutions in religion, breeding a political 
indifference in the mass of men to religion itself, the 
enormous increase of the royal power in consequence of the 
humiliation of the nobility and the clergy — the transference 
of the papal authority to the crown, — the unfixed state of 
Elizabeth's own opinions, whose inclinations were as 
popish as her interests were protestant — the controversial 
extravagance and practical imbecility of her successor — 

282 Course of Lectures 

will help to explain the former period ; and the persecu- 
tions that had given a life-and-soul-interest to the disputes 
so imprudently fostered by James, — the ardour of a 
conscious increase of power in the Commons, and the 
greater austerity of manners and maxims, the natural 
product and most formidable weapon of religious dis- 
putation, not merely in conjunction, but in closest com- 
bination, with newly awakened political and republican 
zeal, these perhaps account for the character of the latter 

In the close of the former period, and during the bloom 
of the latter, the poet Milton was educated and formed ; 
and he survived the latter, and all the fond hopes and 
aspirations which had been its life ; and so in evil days, 
standing as the representative of the combined excellence 
of both periods, he produced the Paradise Lost as by an 
after-throe of nature. " There are some persons," (ob- 
serves a divine, a contemporary of Milton's) " of whom the 
grace of God takes early hold, and the good spirit inhabiting 
them, carries them on in an even constancy through 
innocence into virtue, their Christianity bearing equal date 
with their manhood, and reason and religion, like warp and 
woof, running together, make up one web of a wise and 
exemplary life. This (he adds) is a most happy case, 
wherever it happens ; for, besides that there is no sweeter 
or more lovely thing on earth than the early buds of piety, 
which drew from our Saviour signal affection to the beloved 
disciple, it is better to have no wound than to experience 
the most sovereign balsam, which, if it work a cure, yet 
usually leaves a scar behind." Although it was and is my 
intention to defer the consideration of Milton's own 
character to the conclusion of this Lecture, yet I could not 
prevail on myself to approach the Paradise Lost without 
impressing on your minds the conditions under which such 
a work was in fact producible at all, the original genius 
having been assumed as the immediate agent and efficient 
cause ; and these conditions I find in the character of the 
times and in his own character. The age in which the 
foundations of his mind were laid, was congenial to it as 
one golden aera of profound erudition and individual genius ; 
— that in which the superstructure was carried up, was no 
less favourable to it by a sternness of discipline and a show 
of self-control, highly flattering to the imaginative dignity 

Lecture X. 283 

of an heir of fame, and which won Milton over from the 
dear-loved delights of academic groves and cathedral 
aisles to the anti-prelatic party. It acted on him, too, no 
doubt, and modified his studies by a characteristic con- 
troversial spirit, (his presentation of God is tinted with it) — 
a spirit not less busy indeed in political than in theological 
and ecclesiastical dispute, but carrying on the former 
almost always, more or less, in the guise of the latter. And 
so far as Pope's censure ^ of our poet, — that he makes God 
the Father a school divine — is just, we must attribute it to 
the character of his age, from which the men of genius, who 
escaped, escaped by a worse disease, the licentious in- 
difference of a Frenchified court. 

Such was the nidus or soil, which constituted, in the 
strict sense of the word, the circumstances of Milton's mind. 
In his mind itself there were purity and piety absolute ; 
an imagination to which neither the past nor the present 
were interesting, except as far as they called forth and 
enlivened the great ideal, in which and for which he hved ; 
a keen love of truth, which, after many weary pursuits, 
found a harbour in a sublime listening to the still voice in 
his own spirit, and as keen a love of his country, which, 
after a disappointment still more depressive, expanded and 
soared into a love of man as a probationer of immortality. 
These were, these alone could be, the conditions under 
which such a work as the Paradise Lost could be con- 
ceived and accomplished. By a life-long study Milton had 
known — 

What was of use to know, 
What best to say could say, to do had done. 
His actions to his words agreed, his words 
To his large heart gave utterance due, his heart 
Contain'd of good, wise, fair, the perfect shape ; 

and he left the imperishable total, as a bequest to the ages 
coming, in the Paradise Lost.^ 

Difficult as I shall find it to turn over these leaves with- 
out catching some passage, which would tempt me to stop, 
I propose to consider, ist, the general plan and arrangement 
of the work ; — 2ndly, the subject with its difficulties and 

1 Table Talk, vol. ii. p. 264. 

2 Here Mr. C. notes : "Not perhaps here, but towards, or as, the conclusion, to 
chastise the fashionable notion that poetry is a relaxation or amusement, one of the 
superfluous toys and luxuries of the intellect ! To contrast the permanence of poems 
with the transiency and fleeting moral effects of empires, and what are called, rreat 
events " Ed. 

284 Course of Lectures 

advantages ; — 3rdly, the poet's object, the spirit in the 
letter, the Iv&xj/miov h ij.ii6(ji, the true school-divinity ; and 
lastly, the characteristic excellencies of the poem, in what 
they consist, and by what means they were produced. 

1. As to the plan and ordonnance of the Poem. 
Compare it with the Iliad, many of the books of which 

might change places without any injury to the thread of 
the story. Indeed, I doubt the original existence of the 
Iliad as one poem ; it seems more probable that it was put 
together about the time of the Pisistratidae. The Iliad — 
and, more or less, all epic poems, the subjects of which are 
taken from history — have no rounded conclusion ; they 
remain, after all, but single chapters from the volume of 
history, although they are ornamental chapters. Consider 
the exquisite simplicity of the Paradise Lost. It and it 
alone really possesses a beginning, a middle, and an end ; 
it has the totality of the poem as distinguished from the 
ah ovo birth and parentage, or straight line, of history. 

2. As to the subject. 

In Homer, the supposed importance of the subject, as 
the first effort of confederated Greece, is an after-thought 
of the critics ; and the interest, such as it is, derived from 
the events themselves, as distinguished from the manner of 
representing them, is very languid to aU but Greeks. It is 
a Greek poem. The superiority of the Paradise Lost is 
obvious in this respect, that the interest transcends the 
limits of a nation. But we do not generally dwell on this 
excellence of the Paradise Lost, because it seems attribut- 
able to Christianity itself ; — yet in fact the interest is 
wider than Christendom, and comprehends the Jewish and 
Mohammedan worlds ; — nay, still further, inasmuch as it 
represents the origin of evil, and the combat of evil and 
good, it contains matter of deep interest to all mankind, 
as forming the basis of aU religion, and the true occasion 
of all philosophy whatsoever. 

The Fall of man is the subject ; Satan is the cause ; 
man's blissful state the immediate object of his enmity and 
attack ; man is warned by an angel who gives him an 
account of all that was requisite to be known, to make the 
warning at once intelligible and awful, then the temptation 
ensues, and the Fall ; then the immediate sensible con- 
sequence ; then the consolation, wherein an angel presents 
a vision of the history of men with the ultimate triumph 

Lecture X. 285 

of the Redeemer. Nothing is touched in this vision but 
what is of general interest in rehgion ; any thing else 
would have been improper. 

The inferiority of Klopstock's Messiah is inexpressible. 
I admit the prerogative of poetic feeling, and poetic faith ; 
but I cannot suspend the judgment even for a moment. 
A poem may in one sense be a dream, but it must be a 
waking dream. In Milton you have a religious faith 
combined with the moral nature ; it is an efflux ; you go 
along with it. In Klopstock there is a wilfulness ; he 
makes things so and so. The feigned speeches and events 
in the Messiah shock us like falsehoods ; but nothing of 
that sort is felt in the Paradise Lost, in which no parti- 
culars, at least very few indeed, are touched which can 
come into collision or juxta-position with recorded matter. 

But notwithstanding the advantages in Milton's subject, 
there were concomitant insuperable difficulties, and Milton 
has exhibited marvellous skill in keeping most of them out 
of sight. High poetry is the translation of reality into the 
ideal under the predicament of succession of time only. 
The poet is an historian, upon condition of moral power 
being the only force in the universe. The very grandeur 
of his subject ministered a difficulty to Milton. The 
statement of a being of high intellect, warring against the 
supreme Being, seems to contradict the idea of a supreme 
Being. Milton precludes our feeling this, as much as 
possible, by keeping the peculiar attributes of divinity 
less in sight, making them to a certain extent allegorical 
only. Again poetry implies the language of excitement ; 
yet how to reconcile such language with God ! Hence 
Milton confines the poetic passion in God's speeches to the 
language of scripture ; and once only allows the passio 
vera, or quasi humana to appear, in the passage, where the 
Father contemplates his own likeness in the Son before the 
battle :— 

Go then, thou Mightiest, in thy Father's might. 
Ascend my chariot, guide the rapid wheels 
That shake Heaven's basis, bring forth all my war, 
My bow and thunder ; my almighty arms 
Gird on, and sword upon thy puissant thigh ; 
Pursue these sons of darkness, drive them out 
From all Heaven's bounds into the utter deep : 
There let them learn, as likes them, to despise 
God and Messiah his anointed king. 

B. VI. V. 710. 

286 Course of Lectures 

3. As to Milton's object : 

It was to justify the ways of God to man ! The con- 
troversial spirit observable in many parts of the poem, 
especially in God's speeches, is immediately attributable 
to the great controversy of that age, the origination of 
evil. The Arminians considered it a mere calamity. The 
Calvinists took away all human will. Milton asserted the 
will, but declared for the enslavement of the will out of an 
act of the will itself. There are three powers in us, which 
distinguish us from the beasts that perish ; — i, reason ; 
2, the power of viewing universal truth ; and 3, the power 
of contracting universal truth into particulars. Religion 
is the will in the reason, and love in the will. 

The character of Satan is pride and sensual indulgence, 
finding in self the sole motive of action. It is the character 
so often seen in little on the political stage. It exhibits all 
the restlessness, temerity, and cunning which have marked 
the mighty hunters of mankind from Nimrod to Napoleon. 
The common fascination of men is, that these great men, 
as they are called, must act from some great motive. 
Milton has carefully marked in his Satan the intense 
selfishness, the alcohol of egotism, which would rather 
reign in hell than serve in heaven. To place this lust of 
self in opposition to denial of self or duty, and to show 
what exertions it would make, and what pains endure to 
accomplish its end, is Milton's particular object in the 
character of Satan. But around this character he has 
thrown a singularity of daring, a grandeur of sufferance, and 
a ruined splendour, which constitute the very height of 
poetic sublimity. 

Lastly, as to the execution : — 

The language and versification of the Paradise Lost are 
peculiar in being so much more necessarily correspondent 
to each than those in any other poem or poet. The 
connexion of the sentences and the position of the words 
are exquisitely artificial ; but the position is rather 
according to the logic of passion or universal logic, than 
to the logic of grammar. Milton attempted to make the 
Enghsh language obey the logic of passion, as perfectly as 
the Greek and Latin. Hence the occasional harshness in 
the construction. 

Sublimity is the pre-eminent characteristic of the 
Paradise Lost. It is not an arithmetical sublime like 

Lecture X. 287 

Klopstock's, whose rule always is to treat what we might 
think large as contemptibly small. Klopstock mistakes 
bigness for greatness. There is a greatness arising from 
images of effort and daring, and also from those of moral 
endurance ; in Milton both are united. The fallen angels 
are human passions, invested with a dramatic reality. 

The apostrophe to light at the commencement of the 
third book is particularly beautiful as an intermediate 
link between Hell and Heaven ; and observe, how the 
second and third book support the subjective character 
of the poem. In all modern poetry in Christendom there 
is an under consciousness of a sinful nature, a fleeting 
away of external things, the mind or subject greater than 
the object, the reflective character predominant. In the 
Paradise Lost the sublimest parts are the revelations of 
Milton's own mind, producing itself and evolving its own 
greatness ; and this is so truly so, that when that which is 
merely entertaining for its objective beauty is introduced, 
it at first seems a discord. 

In the description of Paradise itself, you have Milton's 
sunny side as a man ; here his descriptive powers are 
exercised to the utmost, and he draws deep upon his 
Italian resources. In the description of Eve, and through- 
out this part of the poem, the poet is predominant over the 
theologian. Dress is the symbol of the Fall, but the mark 
of intellect ; and the metaphysics of dress are, the hiding 
what is not symbolic and displaying by discrimination 
what is. The love of Adam and Eve in Paradise is of the 
highest merit — not phantomatic, and yet removed from 
every thing degrading. It is the sentiment of one rational 
being towards another made tender by a specific difference 
in that which is essentially the same in both ; it is a union 
of opposites, a giving and receiving mutually of the 
permanent in either, a completion of each in the other. 

Milton is not a picturesque, but a musical, poet ; al- 
though he has this merit, that the object chosen by him 
for any particular foreground always remains prominent to 
the end, enriched, but not incumbered, by the opulence of 
descriptive details furnished by an exhaustless imagination. 
I wish the Paradise Lost were more carefully read and 
studied than I can see any ground for believing it is, 
especially those parts which, from the habit of always 
looking for a story in poetry, are scarcely read at all, — as 

288 Course of Lectures 

for example, Adam's vision of future events in the nth 
and I2th books. No one can rise from the perusal of this 
immortal poem without a deep sense of the grandeur and 
the purity of Milton's soul, or without feeling how sus- 
ceptible of domestic enjoyments he really was, notwith- 
standing the discomforts which actually resulted from an 
apparently unhappy choice in marriage. He was, as every 
truly great poet has ever been, a good man ; but finding 
it impossible to realize his own aspirations, either in 
religion or politics, or society, he gave up his heart to the 
living spirit and light within him, and avenged himself on 
the world by enriching it with this record of his own tran- 
scendant ideal. 

Notes on Milton. 1807.1 

(Hayley quotes the following passage : — ) 

" Time serves not now, and, perhaps, I might seem too profuse 
to give any certain account of what the mind at home, in the 
spacious circuit of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself, 
though of highest hope and hardest attempting ; whether that epic 
form, whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of 
Virgil and Tasso, are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief, model." 
p. 69. 

These latter words deserve particular notice. I do not 
doubt that Milton intended his Paradise Lost as an epic of 
the first class, and that the poetic dialogue of the Book of 
Job was his model for the general scheme of his Paradise 
Regained. Readers would not be disappointed in this 
latter poem, if they proceeded to a perusal of it with a 
proper preconception of the kind of interest intended to be 
excited in that admirable work. In its kind it is the most 
perfect poem extant, though its kind may be inferior in 
interest — being in its essence didactic — to that other sort, 
in which instruction is conveyed more effectively, because 
less directly, in connection with stronger and more 
pleasurable emotions, and thereby in a closer affinity with 
action. But might we not as rationally object to an accom- 
plished woman's conversing, however agreeably, because 
it has happened that we have received a keener pleasure 
from her singing to the harp ? Si genus sit proho et 

1 These notes were written by Mr. Coleridge in a copy of Hayley's Life of Milton, 
<4to. 1796), belonging to Mr. Poole. By him they were communicated, and this seems 
the fittest place for their publication. Ed. 

Lecture X. 289 

sapienti viro haud indignum, et si poeina sit in suo genera 
perfectum, satis est. Quod si hoc aiictor idem altioribus 
numeris et carmini diviniori ipsum per se divinum super- 
addiderit, mehercule satis est, et plusquam satis. I cannot, 
however, but wish that the answer of Jesus to Satan in the 
4th book (v. 285) — 

Think not but that I know these things ; or think 
I know them not, not therefore am I short 
Of knowing what I ought, &c. 

had breathed the spirit of Hayley's noble quotation rather 
than the narrow bigotry of Gregory the Great. The 
passage is, indeed, excellent, and is partially true ; but 
partial truth is the worst mode of conveying falsehood. 

Hayley, p. 75. "The sincerest friends of Milton may here agree 
with Johnson, who speaks of his controversial ■merriment as dis- 

The man who reads a work meant for immediate effect 
on one age with the notions and feelings of another, may be 
a refined gentleman, but must be a sorry critic. He who 
possesses imagination enough to live with his forefathers, 
and, leaving comparative reflection for an after moment, 
to give himself up during the first perusal to the feelings of 
a contemporary, if not a partizan, will, I dare aver, rarely 
find any part of Milton's prose works disgusting. 

(Hayley, p. 104. Hayley is speaking of the passage in 
Milton's Answer to Icon Basilice, in which he accuses 
Charles of taking his Prayer in captivity from Pamela's 
prayer in the 3rd book of Sidney's Arcadia. The passage 
begins, — 

" But this king, not content with that which, although in a thing 
holy, is no holy theft, to attribute to his own making other men's 
whole prayers," &c. Symmons' ed. 1806, p. 407.) 

Assuredly, I regret that Milton should have written this 
passage ; and yet the adoption of a prayer from a romance 
on such an occasion does not evince a delicate or deeply 
sincere mind. We are the creatures of association. There 
are some excellent moral and even serious lines in Hudi- 
bras ; but what if a clergyman should adorn his sermon 
with a quotation from that poem ! Would the abstract 
propriety of the verses leave him " honourably acquitted ? " 
The Christian baptism of a line in Virgil is so far from being 


^QO Course of Lectures 

a parallel, that it is ridiculously inappropriate, — an 
absurdity as glaring as that of the bigoted Puritans, who 
objected to some of the noblest and most scriptural prayers 
ever dictated by wisdom and piety, simply because the 
Roman Catholics had used them. 

Hayley, p. 107. " The ambition of Milton," &c. 

I do not approve the so frequent use of this word re- 
latively to Milton. Indeed the fondness for ingrafting a 
good sense on the word ** ambition," is not a Christian 
impulse in general. 

Hayley, p. no. "Milton himself seems to have thought it 
allowable in literary contention to vilify, &c. the character of an 
opponent ; but surely this doctrine is unworthy," &c. 

If ever it were allowable, in this case it was especially so. 
But these general observations, without meditation on the 
particular times and the genius of the times, are most often 
as unjust as they are always superficial. 

(Hayley, p. 133. Hayley is speaking of Milton's 
panegyric on Cromwell's government : — ) 

Besides, however Milton might and did regret the 
immediate necessity, yet what alternative was there ? 
Was it not better that Cromwell should usurp power, to 
protect religious freedom at least, than that the Pres- 
byterians should usurp it to introduce a religious per- 
secution, — extending the notion of spiritual concerns so 
far as to leave no freedom even to a man's bedchamber ? 

(Hayley, p. 250. Hayley's conjectures on the origin of 
the Paradise Lost : — ) 

If Milton borrowed a hint from any writer, it was more 
probably from Strada's Prolusions, in which the Fall of the 
Angels is pointed out as the noblest subject for a Christian 
poet.i The more dissimilar the detailed images are, the 
more likely it is that a great genius should catch the 
general idea. 

(Hayl. p. 294. Extracts from the Adamo of Andreini :) 

" Lucifero. Che dal mio centro oscuro 

Mi chiama a rimirar cotanta luce ? 

1 The reference seems generally to be to the 5th Prolusion of the ist Book. Hie 
arcui hac tela, quibus dim in niagno illo Superunt tumUltu princeps artnorum 
Michael confixit auctoretn proditionis ; hie fulmina humana mentis terror. 
* * * *. In nubibus armatas bcllo legiones instruatn, atque inde pro re nata 
auxiliares ad terram capias evocabo. *••*«. Hie mihi Califes, guos essi 
ferunt eletnentorum tuteiares, pritna ilia corpora tnisiebunt. Sect. 4, Ed. 

Lecture XI. 291 

Who from my dark abyss 

Calls me to gaze on this excess of light ? " 

The words in italics are an unfair translation. They 
ma}^ suggest that Milton really had read and did imitate 
this drama. The original is 'in so great light.' Indeed 
the whole version is affectedly and inaccurately Miltonic. 

lb. V. II. Che di fango opre festi — 

Forming thy works of dust (no, dirt. — ) 

lb. V. 17. Tessa pur stella a stella, 

V aggiunga e luna, e sole. — 

Let him unite above 
Star upon star, moon, sun. 

Let him weave star to star, 
Then join both moon arid sun ! 

lb. V. 21. Ch 'al fin con biasmo e scorno 

Vana I'opra sara, vano il sudore I 

Since in the end division 

Shall prove his works and all his efforts vain. 

Since finally with censure and disdain 

Vain shall the work be, and his toil be vain ! 


The reader of Milton must be always on his duty : he is 
surrounded with sense ; it rises in every line ; every word 
is to the purpose. There are no lazy intervals ; all has 
been considered, and demands and merits observation. If 
this be called obscurity, let it be remembered that it is such 
an obscurity as is a compliment to the reader ; not that 
vicious obscurity v/hich proceeds from a muddled head. 


Asiatic and Greek Mythologies — Robinson Crusoe — Use of 
works of Imagination in Education. 

A CONFOUNDING of God with Nature, and an incapacity of 
finding unity in the manifold and infinity in the individual, 
— these are the origin of polytheism. The most perfect 

1 From a common-place book of Mr. C.'s, communicated by Mr. J. M. Gutch. Ed, 

2 Partly from Mr. Green's note. Ed. 

292 Course of Lectures 

instance of this kind of theism is that of early Greece ; 
other nations seem to have either transcended, or come 
short of, the old Hellenic standard, — a mythology in itself 
fundamentally allegorical, and typical of the powers and 
functions of nature, but subsequently mixed up with a 
deification of great men and hero-worship, — so that finally 
the original idea became inextricably combined with the 
form and attributes of some legendary individual. In 
Asia, probably from the greater unity of the government 
and the still surviving influence of patriarchal tradition, 
the idea of the unity of God, in a distorted reflection of the 
Mosaic scheme, was much more generally preserved ; and 
accordingly all other super or ultra-human beings could 
only be represented as ministers of, or rebels against, his 
will. The Asiatic genii and fairies are, therefore, always 
endowed with moral qualities, and distinguishable as 
malignant or benevolent to man. It is this uniform 
attribution of fixed moral qualities to the supernatural 
agents of eastern mythology that particularly separates 
them from the divinities of old Greece. 

Yet it is not altogether improbable that in the Samo- 
thracian or Cabeiric mysteries the link between the Asiatic 
and Greek popular schemes of mythology lay concealed. 
Of these mysteries there are conflicting accounts, and, 
perhaps, there were variations of doctrine in the lapse of 
ages and intercourse with other systems. But, upon a 
review of all that is left to us on this subject in the writings 
of the ancients, we may, I think, make out thus much of an 
interesting fact, — that Cabiri, impliedly at least, meant 
socii, complices, having a hypostatic or fundamental union 
with, or relation to, each other ; that these mysterious 
divinities were, ultimately at least, divided into a higher 
and lower triad ; that the lower triad, primi qida infimi, 
consisted of the old Titanic deities or powers of nature, 
under the obscure names of Axieros, Axiokersos, and 
Axiokersa, representing symbolically different modifica- 
tions of animal desire or material action, such as hunger, 
thirst, and fire, without consciousness ; that the higher 
triad, uUimi quia superior es, consisted of Jupiter (Pallas, 
or Apollo, or Bacchus, or Mercury, mystically cafled 
Cadmilos) and Venus, representing, as before, the vovg or 
reason, the Xoyoc or word or communicative power, and the 
ipug or love ; — that the Cadmilos or Mercury, the mani- 

Lecture XI. 293 

fested, communicated, or sent, appeared not only in his 
proper person as second of the higher triad, but also as a 
mediator between the higher and lower triad, and so there 
were seven divinities ; and, indeed, according to some 
authorities, it might seem that the Cadmilos acted once 
as a mediator of the higher, and once of the lower, triad, 
and that so there were eight Cabeiric divinities. The lower 
or Titanic powers being subdued, chaos ceased, and 
creation began in the reign of the divinities of mind and 
love ; but the chaotic gods still existed in the abyss, and 
the notion of evoking them was the origin, the idea, of the 
Greek necromancy. 

These mysteries, like all the others, were certainly in 
connection with either the Phoenician or Egyptian systems, 
perhaps with both. Hence the old Cabeiric powers were 
soon made to answer to the corresponding popular 
divinities ; and the lower triad was called by the un- 
initiated, Ceres, Vulcan or Pluto, and Proserpine, and the 
Cadmilos became Mercury. It is not without ground that 
I direct your attention, under these circumstances, to the 
probable derivation of some portion of this most remark- 
able system from patriarchal tradition, and to the connec- 
tion of the Cabeiri with the Kabbala. 

The Samothracian mysteries continued in celebrity till 
some time after the commencement of the Christian era.^ 
But they gradually sank with the rest of the ancient 
system of mythology, to which, in fact, they did not 
properly belong. The peculiar doctrines, however, were 
preserved in the memories of the initiated, and handed 
down by individuals. No doubt they were propagated in 
Europe, and it is not improbable that Paracelsus received 
many of his opinions from such persons, and I think a 
connection may be traced between him and Jacob Behmen. 

The Asiatic supernatural beings are all produced by 
imagining an excessive magnitude, or an excessive small- 
ness combined with great power ; and the broken associa- 
tions, which must have given rise to such conceptions, are 
the sources of the interest which they inspire, as exhibiting, 
through the working of the imagination, the idea of power 
in the will. This is delightfully exemplified in the Arabian 

1 In the reign of Tiberius, a.d. i8, Germanicns attempted to visit Samothrace ; — 
ilium in regressn sacra Samothracum viscre nitentejn obvii aquitoncs depulere. 
Tacit. Ann. II. c. 54. Ed. 

294 Course of Lectures 

Nights' Entertainments, and indeed, more or less, in other 
works of the same kind. In all these there is the same 
activity of mind as in dreaming, that is — an exertion of the 
fancy in the combination and recombination of familiar 
objects so as to produce novel and wonderful imagery. 
To this must be added that these tales cause no deep 
feeling of a moral kind — whether of religion or love ; but 
an impulse of motion is communicated to the mind without 
excitement, and this is the reason of their being so generally 
read and admired. 

I think it not unlikely that the Milesian Tales contained 
the germs of many of those now in the Arabian Nights ; 
indeed it is scarcely possible to doubt that the Greek 
Empire must have left deep impression on the Persian 
intellect. So also many of the Roman Catholic legends 
are taken from Apuleius. In that exquisite story of Cupid 
and Psyche, the allegory is of no injury to the dramatic 
vividness of the tale. It is evidently a philosophic 
attempt to parry Christianity with a qnasi-Fl3itonic 
account of the fall and redemption of the soul. 

The charm of De Foe's works, especially of Robinson 
Crusoe, is founded on the same principle. It always 
interests, never agitates. Crusoe himself is merely a 
representative of humanity in general ; neither his intel- 
lectual nor his moral qualities set him above the middle 
degree of mankind ; his only prominent characteristic 
is the spirit of enterprise and wandering, which is, never- 
theless, a very common disposition. You will observe 
that all that is wonderful in this tale is the result of external 
circumstances — of things which fortune brings to Crusoe's 


Vol. L p. 17. But my ill fate pushed me on now with an obstinacy 
that nothing could resist ; and though I had several times loud calls 
from my reason, and my more composed judgment, to go home, yet 
I had no power to do it. I know not what to call this, nor will I 
urge that it is a secret over-ruling decree that hurries us on to be 
the instruments of our own destruction, even though it be before us, 
and that we rush upon it with our eyes open. 

The wise only possess ideas ; the greater part of man- 
kind are possessed by them. Robinson Crusoe was not 

1 These notes were written by Mr. C. in Mr. Gillman's copy of Robinson Crusoe, in 
the summer of 1830. The references in the text are to Major's edition, 1831. Ed. 

Lecture XI. 295 

conscious of the master impulse, even because it was his 
master, and had taken, as he says, full possession of him. 
When once the mind, in despite of the remonstrating 
conscience, has abandoned its free power to a haunting 
impulse or idea, then whatever tends to give depth and 
vividness to this idea or indefinite imagination, increases 
its despotism, and in the same proportion renders the 
reason and free will ineffectual. Now, fearful calamities, 
sufferings, horrors, and hair-breadth escapes will have this 
effect, far more than even sensual pleasure and prosperous 
incidents. Hence the evil consequences of sin in such 
cases, instead of retracting or deterring the sinner, goad 
him on to his destruction. This is the moral of Shak- 
speare's Macbeth, and the true solution of this paragraph, 
— not any overruling decree of divine wrath, but the 
tyranny of the sinner's own evil imagination, which he 
has voluntarily chosen as his master. 

Compare the contemptuous Swift with the contemned 
De Foe, and how superior will the latter be found ! But 
by what test ? — Even by this ; that the writer who makes 
me sympathize with his presentations with the whole of 
my being, is more estimable than he who calls forth, and 
appeals but to, a part of my being — my sense of the 
ludicrous, for instance. De Foe's excellence it is, to make 
me forget my specific class, character, and circumstances, 
and to raise me while I read him, into the universal man. 

P. 80. I smiled to myself at the sight of this money : " O drug ! " 
said I aloud, &c. However upon second thonohts, I took it away ; 
and wrapping all this in a piece of canvas, &c. 

Worthy of Shakspeare ! — and yet the simple semicolon 
after it, the instant passing on without the least pause of 
reflex consciousness, is more exquisite and masterlike than 
the touch itself. A meaner writer, a Marmontel, would 
have put an (!) after 'away,' and have commenced a fresh 
paragraph. 30th July, 1830. 

P. III. And I must confess, my religious thankfulness to God's 
providence began to abate too, upon the discovering that all this 
was nothing but what was common ; though I ought to have been 
as thankful for so strange and unforeseen a providence, as if it had 
been miraculous. 

To make men feel the truth of this is one characteristic 
object of the miracles v/orked by Moses ; — in them the 
providence is miraculous, the miracles providential. 


Course of Lectures 

p. 126. The growing up of the com, as is hinted in my Journal, 
had, at first, some httle influence upon me, and began to affect me 
with seriousness, as long as I thought it had something miraculous 
in it, &c. 

By far the ablest vindication of miracles which I have 
met with. It is indeed the true ground, the proper 
purpose and intention of a miracle. 

P. 141. To think that this was all my own, that I was king and 
lord of all this country indefeasibly, &c. 

By the by, what is the law of England respecting this ? 
Suppose I had discovered, or been wrecked on an un- 
inhabited island, would it be mine or the king's ? 

P. 223. I considered — that as I could not foresee what the ends 
of divine wisdom might be in all this, so I was not to dispute his 
sovereignty, who, as I was his creature, had an undoubted right, 
by creation, to govern and dispose of me absolutely as he thought 
fit, &c. 

I could never understand this reasoning, grounded on a 
complete misapprehension of St. Paul's image of the potter, 
Rom. ix,, or rather I do fully understand the absurdit}^ of 
it. The susceptibility of pain and pleasure, of good and 
evil, constitutes a right in every creature endowed there- 
with in relation to every rational and moral being, — a 
fortiori therefore, to the Supreme Reason, to the absolutely 
good Being. Remember Davenant's verses ; — 

Doth it our reason's mutinies appease 

To say, the potter may his own clay mould 

To every use, or in what shape he please. 

At first not counsell'd, nor at last controll'd ? 

Power's hand can neither easy be, nor strict 
To lifeless clay, which ease nor torment knows, 
And where it cannot favour or afiflict. 
It neither justice or injustice shows. 

But souls have life, and life eternal too : 
Therefore if doom'd before they can offend. 
It seems to show what heavenly power can do, 
But does not in that deed that power commend. 

Death of Astragon, st. 88, &c. 

P. 232-3. And this I must observe with grief too, that the dis- 
composure of my mind had too great impressions also upon the 
religious parts of my thoughts, — praying to God being properly an 
act of the mind, not of the body. 

As justly conceived as it is beautifully expressed. And 

Lecture XL 297 

a mighty motive for habitual prayer ; for this cannot but 
greatly facilitate the performance of rational prayer even 
in moments of urgent distress. 

P. 244. That this would justify the conduct of the Spaniards in. 
all their barbarities practised in America. 

De Foe was a true philanthropist, who had risen above 
the antipathies of nationality ; but he was evidently 
partial to the Spanish character, which, however, it is not, 
I fear, possible to acquit of cruelty. Witness the Nether- 
lands, the Inquisition, the late Guerilla warfare, &c. 

P. 249. That I shall not discuss, and perhaps cannot account 
for ; but certainly they are a proof of the converse of spirits, &c. 

This reminds me of a conversation I once overheard. 
" How a statement so injurious to Mr. A. and so contrary 
to the truth, should have been made to you by Mr. B. I do 
not pretend to account for ; — only I know of my own 
knowledge that B. is an inveterate liar, and has long 
borne malice against Mr. A. ; and I can prove that he has 
repeatedly declared that in some way or other he would 
do Mr. A. a mischief." 

P. 254. The place I was in was a most delightful cavity or 
grotto of its kind, as could be expected, though perfectly dark ; 
the floor was dry and level, and had a sort of small loose gravel on 
it, &c. 

How accurate an observer of nature De Foe was ! The 
reader will at once recognise Professor Buckland's caves 
and the diluvial gravel. 

P. 308. I entered into a long discourse with him about the devil, 
the original of him, his rebellion against God, his enmity to man, 
the reason of it, his setting himself up in the dark parts of the world 
to be worshipped instead of God, &c. 

I presume that Milton's Paradise Lost must have been 
bound up with one of Crusoe's Bibles ; otherwise I should 
be puzzled to know where he found all this history of the 
Old Gentleman. Not a word of it in the Bible itself, I am 
quite sure. But to be serious. De Foe did not reflect 
that all these difficulties are attached to a mere fiction, or, 
at the best, an allegory, supported by a few popular 
phrases and figures of speech used incidentally or dramati- 
cally by the Evangelists. — and that the existence of a 
personal, intelligent, evil being, the counterpart and 


Course of Lectures 

antagonist of God, is in direct contradiction to the most 
express declarations of Holy Writ. " Shall there he evil 
in a city, and the Lord hath not done it ? " Amos iii. 6. 
" I make peace and create evil." Isa. xlv. 7. This is the 
deep m37stery of the abyss of God. 

Vol. ii. p. 3- I tiave often heard persons of good judgment say, 
* * * that there is no such thing as a spirit appearing, a ghost 
walking, and the like, &c. 

I cannot conceive a better definition of Body than 
" spirit appearing," or of a flesh-and-blood man than a 
rational spirit apparent. But a spirit per se appearing 
is tantamount to a spirit appearing without its appear- 
ances. And as for ghosts, it is enough for a man of 
common sense to observe, that a ghost and a shadow are 
concluded in the same definition, that is, visibility without 

P, 9. She was, in a few words, the stay of all my affairs, the 
centre of all my enterprises, &c. 

The stay of his affairs, the centre of his interests, the 
regulator of his schemes and movements, whom it soothed 
his pride to submit to, and in complying with whose 
wishes the conscious sensation of his acting will increased 
the impulse, while it disguised the coercion, of duty ! — 
the clinging dependent, yet the strong supporter — the 
comforter, the comfort, and the soul's living home ! This 
is De Foe's comprehensive character of the wife, as she 
should be ; and, to the honour of womanhood be it spoken, 
there are few neighbourhoods in which one name at least 
might not be found for the portrait. 

The exquisite paragraphs in this and the next page, in 
addition to others scattered, though with a sparing hand, 
through his novels, afford sufficient proof that De Foe was 
a first-rate master of periodic style ; but with sound 
judgment, and the fine tact of genius, he has avoided it as 
adverse to, nay, incompatible with, the every-day mattei 
of fact realness, which forms the charm and the character 
of all his romances. The Robinson Crusoe is like the \dsion 
of a happy night-mair, such as a denizen of Elysium might 
be supposed to have from a little excess in his nectar and 
ambrosia supper. Our imagination is kept in full play, 
excited to the highest ; yet all the while we are touching, 
or touched by, common flesh and blood. 

Lecture XI. 299 

p. 67. The ungrateful creatures began to be as insolent and 
troublesome as before, &c. 

How should it be otherwise ? They were idle ; and 
when we will not sow corn, the devil will be sure to sow 
weeds, night-shade, henbane, and devil's bit. 

P. 82. That hardened villain was so far from denying it, that 

he said it was true, and him they would do it still before 

they had done with them. 

Observe when a man has once abandoned himself to 
wickedness, he cannot stop, and does not join the devils 
till he has become a devil himself. Rebelling against his 
conscience he becomes the slave of his own furious will. 

One excellence of De Foe, amongst many, is his sacrifice 
of lesser interest to the greater because more universal. 
Had he (as without any improbability he might have done) 
given his Robinson Crusoe any of the turn for natural 
history, which forms so striking and delightful a feature 
in the equally uneducated Dampier ; — had he made him 
lind out qualities and uses in the before (to him) unknown 
plants of the island, discover, for instance, a substitute 
for hops, or describe birds, &c. — many delightful pages 
and incidents might have enriched the book ; — but then 
Crusoe would have ceased to be the universal representa- 
tive, the person for whom every reader could substitute 
himself. But now nothing is done, thought, suffered, or 
desired, but what every man can imagine himself doing, 
thinking, feeling, or wishing for. Even so very easy a 
problem as that of finding a substitute for ink, is with 
exquisite judgment made to baffle Crusoe's inventive 
faculties. And in what he does, he arrives at no excel- 
lence ; he does not make basket work hke Will Atkins ; the 
carpentering, tailoring, pottery, &c. are all just what will 
answer his purposes, and those are confined to needs that 
all men have, and comforts that all men desire. Crusoe 
rises only to the point to which all men may be made to 
feel that they might, and that they ought to, rise in 
religion, — to resignation, dependence on, and thankful 
acknowledgment of, the divine mercy and goodness. 

In the education of children, love is first to be instilled, 
and out of love obedience is to be educed. Then impulse 

300 Course of Lectures 

and power should be given to the intellect, and the ends 
of a moral being be exhibited. For this object thus much 
is effected by works of imagination ; — that they carry the 
mind out of self, and show the possible of the good and 
the great in the human character. The height, whatever 
it may be, of the imaginative standard will do no harm ; 
we are commanded to imitate one who is inimitable. 
We should address ourselves to those faculties in a child's 
mind, which are first awakened by nature, and conse- 
quently first admit of cultivation, that is to say, the 
memory and the imagination. ^ The comparing pov/er, 
the judgment, is not at that age active, and ought not to 
be forcibly excited, as is too frequently and mistakenly 
done in the modern systems of education, which can only 
lead to selfish views, debtor and creditor principles of 
virtue, and an inflated sense of merit. In the imagination 
of man exist the seeds of all moral and scientific improve- 
ment ; chemistry was first alchemy, and out of astrology 
sprang astronomy. In the childhood of those sciences 
the imagination opened a way, and furnished materials, 
on which the ratiocinative powers in a maturer state 
operated with success. The imagination is the distin- 
guishing characteristic of man as a progressive being ; 
and I repeat that it ought to be carefully guided and 
strengthened as the indispensable means and instrument 
of continued amelioration and refinement. Men of genius 
and goodness are generally restless in their minds in the 
present, and this, because they are by a law of their nature 
unremittingly regarding themselves in the future, and 
contemplating the possible of moral and intellectual 
advance towards perfection. Thus we live by hope and 
faith ; thus we are for the most part able to realize what 
we win, and thus we accomplish the end of our being. 
The contemplation of futurity inspires humility of soul 
in our judgment of the present. 

I think the memory of children cannot, in reason, be too 
much stored with the objects and facts of natural history. 
God opens the images of nature, like the leaves of a book, 
before the eyes of his creature, Man — and teaches him all 

1 He (Sir W. Scott) " detested and despised the whole generation of modern 
children's books in which the attempt is made to convey accurate notions of scientific 
minutiae, delighting cordially on the other hand in those of the preceding age. which 
addressing themselves chiefly to the imagination obtain through it, as he believed, the 
best chance of stirring our graver faculties also." — Li/e of Scott. 

Lecture XII. 301 

that is grand and beautiful in the foaming cataract, the 
glassy lake, and the floating mist. 

The common modern novel, in which there is no imagi- 
nation, but a miserable struggle to excite and gratify mere 
curiosity, ought, in my judgment, to be wholly forbidden to 
children. Novel-reading of this sort is especially injurious 
to the growth of the imagination, the judgment, and the 
morals, especially to the latter, because it excites mere 
feelings without at the same time ministering an impulse 
to action. Women are good novelists, but indifferent 
poets ; and this because they rarely or never thoroughly 
distinguish between fact and fiction. In the jumble of the 
two lies the secret of the modern novel, which is the medium 
aliquid between them, having just so much of fiction as to 
obscure the fact, and so much of fact as to render the 
fiction insipid. The perusal of a fashionable lady's novel, 
is to me very much like looking at the scenery and decora- 
tions of a theatre by broad daylight. The source of the 
common fondness for novels of this sort rests in that dislike 
of vacancy, and that love of sloth, which are inherent in 
the human mind ; they afford excitement without pro- 
ducing reaction. By reaction I mean an activity of the 
intellectual faculties, which shows itself in consequent 
reasoning and observation, and originates action and 
conduct according to a principle. Thus, the act of thinking 
presents two sides for contemplation, — that of external 
causality, in which the train of thought may be considered 
as the result of outward impressions, of accidental com- 
binations, of fancy, or the associations of the memory, — 
and on the other hand, that of internal causality, or of the 
energy of the will on the mind itself. Thought, therefore, 
might thus be regarded as passive or active ; and the same 
faculties may in a popular sense be expressed as per- 
ception or observation, fancy or imagination, memory or 


Dreams — Apparitions — Alchemists — Personality of the Evil 
Being — Bodily Identity. 

It is a general, but, as it appears to me, a mistaken opinion, 
that in our ordinary dreams we judge the objects to be real. 
I say our ordinary dreams ; — because as to the night-mair 

302 Course of Lectures 

the opinion is to a considerable extent just. But the 
night-mair is not a mere dream, but takes place when the 
waking state of the brain is recommencing, and most often 
during a rapid alternation, a twinkling, as it were, of sleeping 
and waking ; — while either from pressure on, or from some 
derangement in, the stomach or other digestive organs 
acting on the external skin (which is still in sympathy with 
the stomach and bowels), and benumbing it, the sensations 
sent up to the brain by double touch (that is, when my own 
hand touches my side or breast) are so faint as to be 
merely equivalent to the sensation given by single touch, 
as when another person's hand touches me. The mind, 
therefore, which at all times, with and without our distinct 
consciousness, seeks for, and assumes, some outward cause 
for every impression from without, and which in sleep, by 
aid of the imaginative faculty, converts its judgments 
respecting the cause into a personal image as being the 
cause, — the mind, I say, in this case, deceived by past 
experience, attributes the painful sensation received to a 
correspondent agent, — an assassin, for instance, stabbing 
at the side, or a goblin sitting on the breast. Add too that 
the impressions of the bed, curtains, room, &c. received 
by the eyes in the half-moments of their opening, blend 
with, and give vividness and appropriate distance to, the 
dream image which returns when they close again ; and 
thus we unite the actual perceptions, or their immediate 
reliques, with the phantoms of the inward sense ; and 
in this manner so confound the half-waking, half-sleeping, 
reasoning power, that we actually do pass a positive judg- 
ment on the reality of what we see and hear, though often 
accompanied by doubt and self-questioning, which, as I 
have myself experienced, will at times become strong 
enough, even before we awake, to convince us that it is 
what it is — namely, the night-mair. 

In ordinary dreams we do not judge the objects to be 
real ; — we simply do not determine that they are unreal. 
The sensations which they seem to produce, are in truth 
the causes and occasions of the images ; of which there 
are two obvious proofs : first, that in dreams the strangest 
and most sudden metamorphoses do not create any sensa- 
tion of surprise : and the second, that as to the most 
dreadful images, which during the dream were accompanied 
with agonies of terror, we merely awake, or turn round on 

Lecture XII. 303 

the other side, and off fly both image and agony, which 
would be impossible if the sensations were produced by the 
images. This has always appeared to me an absolute 
demonstration of the true nature of ghosts and appari- 
tions — such I mean of the tribe as were not pure inven- 
tions. Fifty years ago, (and to this day in the ruder 
parts of Great Britain and Ireland, in almost every kitchen 
and in too many parlours it is nearly the same,) you might 
meet persons who would assure you in the most solemn 
manner, so that you could not doubt their veracity at 
least, that they had seen an apparition of such and such a 
person, — in many cases, that the apparition had spoken to 
them ; and they would describe themselves as having been 
in an agony of terror. The}^ would tell you the story in 
perfect health. Now take the other class of facts, in which 
real ghosts have appeared ; — I mean, where figures have 
been dressed up for the purpose of passing for apparitions : 
— in every instance I have known or heard of (and I have 
collected very many) the consequence has been either 
sudden death, or fits, or idiocy, or mania, or a brain fever. 
Whence comes the difference ? evidently from this, — that 
in the one case the whole of the nervous system has been by 
slight internal causes gradually and all together brought 
into a certain state, the sensation of which is extravagantly 
exaggerated during sleep, and of which the images are the 
mere effects and exponents, as the motions of the weather- 
cock are of the wind ; — while in the other case, the image 
rushing through the senses upon a nervous system, wholly 
unprepared, actually causes the sensation, which is some- 
times powerful enough to produce a total check, and almost 
always a lesion or inflammation. Who has not witnessed 
the difference in shock when we have leaped down half-a- 
dozen steps intentionally, and that of having missed a 
single stair ? How comparatively severe the latter is ! The 
fact really is, as to apparitions, that the terror produces 
the image instead of the contrary ; for in omnem actum 
perceptionis influit imaginatio, as says Wolfe. 

O, strange is the self-power of the imagination — when 
painful sensations have made it their interpreter, or return- 
ing gladsomeness or convalescence has made its chilled and 
evanished figures and landscape bud, blossom, and live in 
scarlet, green, and snowy white (like the fire-screen in- 
scribed with the nitrate and muriate of cobalt,) — strange is 

304 Course of Lectures 

the power to represent the events and circumstances, even 
to the anguish or the triumph of the quasi-credent soul, 
while the necessary conditions, the only possible causes of 
such contingencies, are known to be in fact quite hopeless ; 
— yea, when the pure mind would recoil from the eve- 
lengthened shadow of an approaching hope, as from a 
crime : — and yet the effect shall have place, and substance, 
and living energy, and, on a blue islet of ether, in a whole 
sky of blackest cloudage, shine like a firstling of creation 1 

To return, however, to apparitions, and by way of an 
amusing illustration of the nature and value of even con- 
temporary testimony upon such subjects, I will present 
you with a passage, literally translated by my friend, Mr. 
Southey, from the well known work of Bernal Dias, one of 
the companions of Cortez, in the conquest of Mexico : 

Here it is that Gomara says, that Francisco de Morla rode forward 
on a dappled grey horse, before Cortes and the cavalry came up, 
and that the apostle St. lago, or St. Peter, was there. I must say 
that all our works and victories are by the hand of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, and that in this battle there were for each of us so many 
Indians, that they could have covered us with handfuls of earth, 
if it had not been that the great mercy of God helped us in every 
thing. And it may be that he of whom Gomara speaks, was the 
glorious Santiago or San Pedro, and I, as a sinner, was not worthy 
to see him ; but he whom I saw there and knew, was Francisco de 
Morla on a chesnut horse, who came up with Cortes. And it seems 
to me that now while I am writing this, the whole war is represented 
before these sinful eyes, just in the manner as we then went through 
it. And though I, as an unworthy sinner, might not deserve to see 
either of these glorious apostles, there were in our company above 
fovir hundred soldiers and Cortes, and many other knights ; and it 
would have been talked of and testified, and they would have made 
a church when they peopled the town, which would have been called 
Santiago de la Vittoria, or San Pedro de la Vittoria, as it is now 
called, Santa Maria de la Vittoria. And if it was, as Gomara says, 
bad Christians must we have been when our Lord God sent us his 
holy apostles, not to acknowledge his great mercy, and venerate his 
church daily. And would to God, it had been, as the Chronicler 
says ! — but till I read his Chronicle, I never heard such a thing 
from any of the conquerors who were there. 

Now, what if the odd accident of such a man as Bernal 
Dias' writing a history had not taken place ! Gomara's 
account, the account of a contemporary, which yet must 
have been read by scores who were present, would ha\'e 
remained uncontradicted. I remember the story of a man, 
whom the devil met and talked with, but left at a particular 
lane ; — the man followed him with his eyes, and when the 

Lecture XII. 305 

devil got to the turning or bend of the lane, he vanished ! 
The devil was upon this occasion drest in a blue coat, plush 
waistcoat, leather breeches and boots, and talked and 
looked just like a common man, except as to a particular 
lock of hair which he had. " And how do you know then 
that it was the devil ? " " How do I know," replied the 
fellow, — " why, if it had not been the devil, being drest as 
he was, and looking as he did, why should I have been sore 
stricken with fright when I first saw him ? and why should 
I be in such a tremble all the while he talked ? And, more- 
over, he had a particular sort of a kind of a look, and when 
I groaned and said, upon every question he asked me, 
Lord have mercy upon me ! or, Christ have mercy upon 
me ! it was plain enough that he did not like it, and so he 
left me ! " — The man was quite sober when he related this 
story ; but as it happened to him on his return from 
market, it is probable that he was then muddled. As for 
myself, I was actually seen in Newgate in the winter of 
1798 ; — the person who saw me there, said he had asked my 
name of Mr. A. B. a known acquaintance of mine, who 
told him that it was young Coleridge, who had married the 

eldest Miss . " Will you go to Newgate, Sir ? " said 

my friend ; for I assure you that Mr. C. is now in Germany." 
** Very willingly," replied the other, and away they went 
to Newgate, and sent for A. B. " Coleridge," cried he, " in 

Newgate ! God forbid ! " I said, " young Col who 

married the eldest Miss ." The names were something 

similar. And yet this person had himself really seen me at 
one of my lectures. 

I remember, upon the occasion of my inhaling the 
nitrous oxide at the Royal Institution, about five minutes 
afterwards, a gentleman came from the other side of the 
theatre and said to me, — " Was it not ravishingly delight- 
ful, Sir ? " — " It was highly pleasurable, no doubt." — 
** Was it not very like sweet music ? " — " I cannot say I 
perceived any analogy to it." — " Did you not say it was 
very like Mrs. Billington singing by your ear ! " — " No, 
Sir, I said that while I was breathing the gas, there was a 
singing in my ears." 

To return, however, to dreams, I not only believe, for 
the reasons given, but have more than once actually 
experienced that the most fearful forms, when produced 
simply by association, instead of causing fear, operate no 

3o6 Course of Lectures 

other effect than the same would do if they had passed 
through my mind as thoughts, while I was composing a 
faery tale ; the whole depending on the wise and gracious 
law in our nature, that the actual bodily sensations, called 
forth according to the law of association by thoughts and 
images of the mind, never greatly transcend the limits of 
pleasurable feeling in a tolerably healthy frame, unless 
when an act of the judgment supervenes and interprets 
them as purporting instant danger to ourselves. 

1 There have been very strange and incredible stories 
told of and by the alchemists. Perhaps in some of them 
there may have been a specific form of mania, originating in 
the constant intension of the mind on an imaginary end, 
associated with an immense variety of means, all of them 
substances not familiar to men in general, and in forms 
strange and unlike to those of ordinary nature. Some- 
times, it seems as if the alchemists wrote like the Pytha- 
goreans on music, imagining a metaphysical and inaudible 
music as the basis of the audible. It is clear that by 
sulphur they meant the solar rays or light, and by mercury 
the principle of ponderability, so that their theory was the 
same with that of the Heraclitic physics, or the modern 
German N atur-philosophie, which deduces all things from 
light and gravitation, each being bipolar ; gravitation = 
north and south, or attraction and repulsion ; light = east 
and west, or contraction and dilation ; and gold being the 
tetrad, or interpenetration of both, as water was the dyad 
of light, and iron the dyad of gravitation. 

It is, probably, unjust to accuse the alchemists generally 
of dabbling with attempts at magic in the common sense 
of the term. The supposed exercise of magical power 
always involved some moral guilt, directly or indirectly, 
as in stealing a piece of meat to lay on warts, touching 
humours with the hand of an executed person, &c. Rites 
of this sort and other practices of sorcery have always 
been regarded with trembling abhorrence by all nations, 
even the most ignorant, as by the Africans, the Hudson's 
Bay people and others. The alchemists were, no doubt, 
often considered as dealers in art magic, and many of them 
were not unwilling that such a belief should be prevalent ; 
and the more earnest among them evidently looked at their 
association of substances, fumigations, and other chemical 

1 From Mr. Green's note. 

Lecture XII. 307 

operations as merely ceremonial, and seem, therefore, to 
have had a deeper meaning, that of evoking a latent power. 
It would be profitable to make a collection of all the cases of 
cures by magical charms and incantations ; much useful 
information might, probably, be derived from it ; for it is 
to be observed that such rites are the form in which medical 
knowledge would be preserved amongst a barbarous and 
ignorant people. 

Note.^ June, 1827. 

The apocryphal book of Tobit consists of a very simple, 
but beautiful and interesting, family-memoir, into which 
some later Jewish poet or fabulist of Alexandria wove the 
ridiculous and frigid machinery, borrowed from the popular 
superstitions of the Greeks (though, probably, of Egyptian 
origin), and accommodated, clumsily enough, to the purer 
monotheism of the Mosaic law. The Rape of the Lock is 
another instance of a simple tale thus enlarged at a later 
period, though in this case by the same author, and with a 
very different result. Now unless Mr. Hillhouse is Romanist 
enough to receive this nursery-tale garnish of a domestic 
incident as grave history, and holy writ, (for which, even 
from learned Roman Catholics, he would gain more credit 
as a very obedient child of the Church than as a biblical 
critic,) he will find it no easy matter to support this asser- 
tion of his by the passages of Scripture here referred to, 
consistently with any sane interpretation of their import 
and purpose. 

I. The Fallen Spirits. 

This is the mythological form, or, if you will, the sym- 
bolical representation, of a profound idea necessary as the 
prcB-suppositum of the Christian scheme, or a postulate of 
reason, indispensable, if we would render the existence 
of a world of finites compatible with the assumption 
of a super-mundane God, not one with the world. In 
short, this idea is the condition under which alone the 
reason of man can retain the doctrine of an infinite and 
absolute Being, and yet keep clear of pantheism as ex- 
hibited by Benedict Spinosa. 

II. The Egyptian Magicians. 

This whole narrative is probably a relic of the old 

1 Written in a copy of Mr. Hillhouse's Hadad. Ed. 


Course of Lectures 

diplomatic lingua-arcana, or state-symbolique — in which 
the prediction of events is expressed as the immediate 
causing of them. Thus the prophet is said to destroy the 
city, the destruction of which he predicts. The word 
which our version renders by " enchantments " signifies 
" flames or burnings," by which it is probable that the 
Egyptians were able to deceive the spectators, and sub- 
stitute serpents for staves. See Parkhurst in voce. 

And with regard to the possessions in the Gospels, bear 
in mind first of all, that spirits are not necessarily souls or 
Fs (ich-keiten or self-consciousnesses), and that the most 
ludicrous absurdities would follow from taking them as 
such in the Gospel instances ; and secondly, that the 
Evangelist, who has recorded the most of these incidents, 
himself speaks of one of these possessed persons as a 

lunatic ; — (^as7^r,vid^srai — s^7JX6iv octt avrov to da,i/j.6viov. Matt. 

xvii. 15, 18) while St. John names them not at all, but 
seems to include them under the description of diseased or 
deranged persons. That madness may result from 
spiritual causes, and not only or principally from physical 
ailments, may readily be admitted. Is not our will itself 
a spiritual power ? Is it not the spirit of the man ? The 
mind of a rational and responsible being {that is, of a free- 
agent) is a spirit, though it does not follow that aU spirits 
are minds. Who shall dare determine what spiritual 
influences may not arise out of the collective evil wills of 
wicked men ? Even the bestial life, sinless in animals and 
their nature, may when awakened in the man and by his 
own act admitted into his will, become a spiritual influence. 
He receives a nature into his will, which by this very act 
becomes a corrupt will ; and vice versa, this will becomes 
his nature, and thus a corrupt nature. This may be con- 
ceded ; and this is aU that the recorded words of our 
Saviour absolutely require in order to receive an appro- 
priate sense ; but this is altogether different from making 
spirits to be devils, and devils self-conscious individuals. 

Lecture XII. 309 

Notes. ^ March, 1824. 

A Christian's conflicts and conquests, p, 459. By the devil we 
are to understand that apostate spirit which fell from God, and is 
always designing to hale down others from God also. The Old 
Dragon (mentioned in the Revelation) with his tail drew down the 
third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. 

How much it is to be regretted, that so enlightened and 
able a divine as Smith, had not philosophically and 
scripturally enucleated this so difficult yet important 
question, — respecting the personal existence of the evil 
principle ; that is, whether as ro kTov of paganism is ^log 
in Christianity, so the t6 'rrovriphv is to be 6 Tovripog, — and 
whether this is an express doctrine of Christ, and not 
merely a Jewish dogma left undisturbed to fade away under 
the increasing light of the Gospel, instead of assuming the 
former, and confirming the position by a verse from a 
poetic tissue of visual symbols, — a verse alien from the 
subject, and by which the Apocalypt enigmatized the 
Neronian persecutions and the apostasy through fear 
occasioned by it in a large number of converts. 

lb. p. 463. When we say, the devil is continually busy with us, 
I mean not only some apostate spirit as one particular being, but 
that spirit of apostasy which is lodged in all men's natures ; and 
this may seem particularly to be aimed at in this place, if we observe 
the context : — as the scripture speaks of Christ not only as a parti- 
cular person, but as a divine principle in holy souls. 

Indeed the devil is not only the name of one particular thing, 
but a nature. 

May I not venture to suspect that this was Smith's own 
belief and judgment ? and that his conversion of the 
Satan, that is, circuitor, or minister of police (what our 
Sterne calls the accusing angel) in the prologue to Job into 
the devil was a mere condescension to the prevailing pre- 
judice ? Here, however, he speaks like himself, and like 
a true religious philosopher, who felt that the personality 
of evil spirits is a trifling question, compared with the 
personality of the evil principle. This is indeed most 

1 Written in a copy of " Select Discourses by John Smith, of Queen's College, 
Cambridge, 1660," and communicated by the Rev. Edward Coleridge. Ed, 

3IO Course of Lectures 

Note on a Passage in the Life of Henry, 
Earl of Morland. 20th June, 1827. 

The defect of this and all similar theories that I am 
acquainted with, or rather, let me say, the desideratum, is 
the neglect of a previous definition of the term " body." 
What do you mean by it ? The immediate grounds of a 
man's size, visibihty, tangibihty, &c. ? — But these are in 
a continual flux even as a column of smoke. The material 
particles of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, lime, 
phosphorus, sulphur, soda, iron, that constitute the 
ponderable organism in May, 1827, at the moment of 
Pollio's death in his 70th year, have no better claim to be 
called his " body," than the numerical particles of the 
same names that constituted the ponderable mass in May, 
1787, in Pollio's prime of manhood in his 30th year ; — the 
latter no less than the former go into the grave, that is, 
suffer dissolution, the one in a series, the other simultan- 
eously. The result to the particles is precisely the same in 
both, and of both therefore we must say with holy Paul, — 
" Thou fool ! that which thou sow est, thou sow est not that 
body that shall be," &c. Neither this nor that is the body 
that abideth. Abideth, I say ; for that which riseth again 
must have remained, though perhaps in an inert state. — It 
is not dead, but sleepeth ; — that is, it is not dissolved any 
more than the exterior or phenomenal organism appears to 
us dissolved when it lieth in apparent inactivity during our 

Sound reasoning this, to the best of my judgment, as far 
as it goes. But how are we to explain the reaction of this 
fluxional body on the animal ? In each moment the 
particles by the informing force of the living principle con- 
stitute an organ not only of motion and sense, but of con- 
sciousness. The organ plays on the organist. How is 
this conceivable ? The solution requires a depth, stillness, 
and subtlety of spirit not only for its discovery, but even 
for the understanding of it when discovered, and in the 
most appropriate words enunciated. I can merely give a 
hint. The particles themselves must have an interior and 
gravitate being, and the multeity must be a removable or 
at least suspensible accident. 

Lecture XIII. 311 


On Poesy or Art. 

Man communicates by articulation of sounds, and para- 
mountly by the memory in tne ear ; nature by the im- 
pression of bounds and surfaces on the eye, and through 
the eye it gives significance and appropriation, and thus 
the conditions of memory, or the capabihty of being re- 
membered, to sounds, smells, &c. Now, Art, used col- 
lectively for painting, sculpture, architecture and music, is 
the mediatress between, and reconciler of, nature and 
man. It is, therefore, the power of humanizing nature, of 
infusing the thoughts and passions of man into every thing 
which is the object of his contemplation ; colour, form, 
motion and sound are the elements which it combines, 
and it stamps them into unity in the mould of a moral 

The primary art is writing ; — primary, if we regard the 
purpose abstracted from the different modes of realizing it, 
those steps of progression of which the instances are still 
visible in the lower degrees of civilization. First, there is 
mere gesticulation ; then rosaries or wampun ; then 
picture-language ; then hieroglyphics, and finally alpha- 
betic letters. These aU consist of a translation of man into 
nature, of a substitution of the visible for the audible. 

The so called music of savage tribes as little deserves the 
name of art for the understanding as the ear warrants it for 
music. Its lowest state is a mere expression of passion by 
sounds which the passion itself necessitates ; — the highest 
amounts to no more than a voluntary reproduction ol these 
sounds in the absence of the occasioning causes, so as to 
give the pleasure of contrast, — for example, by the various 
outcries of battle in the song of security and triumph. 
Poetry also is purely human ; for aU its materials are from 
the mind, and all its products are for the mind. But it is 
the apotheosis of the former state, in which by excitement 
of the associative power passion itself imitates order, and 
the order resulting produces a pleasurable passion, and thus 
it elevates the mind by making its feelings the o! ject of its 
reflexion. So likewise, whilst it recalls the sights and 
sounds that had accompanied the occasions of the original 

312 Course of Lectures 

passions, poetry impregnates them with an interest not 
their own by means of the passions, and yet tempers the 
passion by the calming power which all distinct images 
exert on the human soul. In this way poetry is the pre- 
paration for art, inasmuch as it avails itself of the forms of 
nature to recall, to express, and to modify the thoughts and 
feelings of the mind. Still, however, poetry can only act 
through the intervention of articulate speech, which is so 
peculiarly human, that in all languages it constitutes the 
ordinary phrase by which man and nature are contra- 
distinguished. It is the original force of the word 'brute' ; 
and even 'mute,' and 'dumb' do not convey the absence of 
sound, but the absence of articulated sounds. 

As soon as the human mind is intelligibly addressed by 
an outward image exclusively of articulate speech, so soon 
does art commence. But please to observe that I have laid 
particular stress on the words ' human mind, ' meaning to 
exclude thereby aU results common to man and all other 
sentient creatures, and consequently confining myself to 
the effect produced by the congruity of the animal im- 
pression with the reflective powers of the mind ; so that not 
the thing presented, but that which is represented by the 
thing shall be the source of the pleasure. In this sense 
nature itself is to a religious observer the art of God ; and 
for the same cause art itself might be defined as of a middle 
quality between a thought and a thmg ; or, as I said before, 
the union and reconciliation of that which is nature with 
that which is exclusively human. It is the figured lan- 
guage of thought, and is distinguished from nature by the 
unity of all the parts in one thought or idea. Hence nature 
itself would give us the impression of a work of art if we 
could see the thought which is present at once in the whole 
and in every part ; and a work of art will be just in pro- 
portion as it adequately conveys the thought, and rich 
in proportion to the variety of parts which it holds in 

If, therefore, the term 'mute' be taken as opposed not 
to sound but to articulate speech, the old definition of 
painting will in fact be the true and best definition of the 
Fine Arts in general, that is, muta poesis, mute poesy, 
and so of course poesy. And, as all languages perfect 
themselves by a gradual process of desynonymizing words 
originally equivalent, I have cherished the wish to use the 

Lecture XIII. 313 

word 'poesy' as the generic or common term, and to dis- 
tinguish that species of poesy which is not muta poesis by 
its usual name 'poetry ;' while of all the other species 
which collectively form the Fine Arts, there would remain 
this as the common definition, — that they all, like poetry, 
are to express intellectual purposes, thoughts, conceptions, 
and sentiments which have their origin in the human mind, 
not, however, as poetry does, by means of articulate speech, 
but as nature or the divine art does, by form, co our, 
magnitude, proportion, or by sound, that is, silently or 

Well ! it may be said — but who has ever thought other- 
wise ! We all know that art is the imitatress of nature. 
And, doubtless, the truths which I hope to convey, would 
be barren truisms, if all men meant the same by the 
words 'imitate' and 'nature.' But it would be flattering 
mankind at large, to presume that such is the fact. First, 
to imitate. The impression on the wax is not an imita- 
tion, but a copy, of the seal ; the seal itself is an imitation. 
But, further, in order to form a philosophic conception, we 
must seek for the kind, as the heat in ice, invisible light, &c. 
whilst, for practical purposes, we must have reference to 
the degree. It is sufficient that philosophically we under- 
stand that in all imitation two elements must coexist, and 
not only coexist, but must be perceived as coexisting. 
These two constituent elements are likeness and unlikeness, 
or sameness and difference. And in all genuine creations of 
art there must be a union of these disparates. The artist 
may take his point of viev/ where he pleases, provided that 
the desired effect be perceptibly produced, — that there be 
likeness in the difference, difference in the likeness, and a 
reconcilement of both in one. If there be likeness to nature 
without any check of difference, the result is disgusting, 
and the more complete the delusion, the more loathsome 
the effect. Why are such simulations of nature, as 
wax-work figures of men and women, so disagreeable ? 
Because, not finding the motion and the life which we 
expected, we are shocked as by a falsehood, every circum- 
stance of detail, which before induced us to be interested, 
making the distance from truth more palpable. You set 
out with a supposed reality and are disappointed and dis- 
gusted with the deception ; whilst, in respect to a work of 
genuine imitation, you begin with an acknowledged total 

314 Course of Lectures 

difference, and then every touch of nature gives you the 
pleasure of an approximation to truth. The fundamental 
principle of all this is undoubtedly the horror of falsehood 
and the love of truth inherent in the human breast. The 
Greek tragic dance rested on these principles, and I can 
deeply sympathize in imagination with the Greeks in this 
favourite part of their theatrical exhibitions, when I call to 
mind the pleasure I felt in beholding the combat of the 
Horatii and Curiatii most exquisitely danced in Italy to the 
music of Cimarosa. 

Secondly, as to nature. We must imitate nature ! yes, 
but what in nature, — all and everything ? No, the 
beautiful in nature. And what then is the beautiful ? 
What is beauty ? It is, in the abstract, the unity of 
the manifold, the coalescence of the diverse ; in the con- 
crete, it is the unian of the shapely {formosum) with the 
vital. In the dead organic it depends on regularity of 
form, the first and lowest species of which is the triangle 
with all its modifications, as in crystals, architecture, &c. ; 
in the living organic it is not mere regularity of form, which 
would produce a sense of formalit}^ ; neither is it sub- 
servient to any thing beside itself. It may be present 
in a disagreeable object, in which the proportion of the 
parts constitutes a whole ; it does not arise from associa- 
tion, as the agreeable does, but sometimes lies in the 
rupture of association ; it is not different to different 
individuals and nations, as has been said, nor is it connected 
with the ideas of the good, or the fit, or the useful. The 
sense of beauty is intuitive, and beauty itself is all that 
inspires pleasure without, and aloof from, and even con- 
trarily to, interest. 

If the artist copies the mere nature, the natura naturata, 
what idle rivalry ! If he proceeds only from a given form, 
which is supposed to answer to the notion of beauty, what 
an emptiness, what an unreality there always is in his pro- 
ductions, as in Cipriani's pictures ! Believe me, you must 
master the essence, the natura natiirans, which presupposes 
a bond between nature in the higher sense and the soul of 

The wisdom in nature is distinguished from that in man, 
by the co-instantaneit}^ of the plan and the execution ; 
the thought and the product are one, or are given at once ; 
but there is no reflex act, and hence there is no moral 

Lecture XIII. 315 

responsibility. In man there is reflexion, freedom, and 
choice ; he is, therefore, the head of the visible creation. 
In the objects of nature are presented, as in a mirror, all 
the possible elements, steps, and processes of intellect 
antecedent to consciousness, and therefore to the full 
development of the intelligential act ; and man's mind is 
the very focus of all the rays of intellect which are scattered 
throughout the images of nature. Now so to place these 
images, totalized, and fitted to the limits of the human 
mind, as to elicit from, and to superinduce upon, the forms 
themselves the moral reflexions to which they approximate, 
to make the external internal, the internal external, to 
make nature thought, and thought nature, — this is the 
mystery of genius in the Fine Arts. Dare I add that the 
genius must act on the feeling, that body is but a striving 
to become mind, that it is mind in its essence ! 

In every work of art there is a reconcilement of the ex- 
ternal with the internal ; the conscious is so impressed on 
the unconscious as to appear in it ; as compare mere 
letters inscribed on a tomb with figures themselves con- 
stituting the tomb. He who combines the two is the man 
of genius ; and for that reason he must partake of both. 
Hence there is in genius itself an unconscious activity ; 
nay, that is the genius in the man of genius. And this is 
the true exposition of the rule that the artist must first eloign 
himself from nature in order to return to her with full effect. 
Why this ? Because if he were to begin by mere painful 
copying, he would produce masks only, not forms breathing 
life. He must out of his own mind create forms according 
to the severe laws of the intellect, in order to generate in 
himself that co-ordination of freedom and law, that in- 
volution of obedience in the prescript, and of the prescript 
in the impulse to obey, which assimilates him to nature, and 
enables him to understand her. He merely absents him- 
self for a season from her, that his own spirit, which has 
the same ground with nature, may learn her unspoken 
language in its main radicals, before he approaches to her 
endless compositions of them. Yes, not to acquire cold 
notions — lifeless technical rules — but living and life- 
producing ideas, which shall contain their own evidence, the 
certainty that they are essentially one with the germinal 
causes in nature — his consciousness being the focus and 
mirror of both, — for this does the artist for a time abandon 

3i6 Course of Lectures 

the external real in order to return to it with a complete 
sympathy with its internal and actual. For of all we see, 
hear, feel and touch the substance is and must be in our- 
selves ; and therefore there is no alternative in reason 
between the dreary (and thank heaven ! almost impossible) 
belief that every thing around us is but a phantom, or that 
the life which is in us is in them likewise ; ^ and that to 
know is to resemble, when we speak of objects out of our- 
selves, even as within ourselves to learn is, according to 
Plato, only to recollect ; — the only effective answer to 
which, that I have been fortunate enough to meet with, is 
that which Pope has consecrated for future use in the line — 

And coxcombs vanquish Berkeley with a grin ! 

The artist must imitate that which is within the thing, that 
which is active through form and figure, and discourses to 
us by symbols — the Natur-geist, or spirit of nature, as we 
unconsciously imitate those whom we love ; for so only can 
he hope to produce any work truly natural in the object 
and truly human in the effect. The idea which puts the 
form together cannot itself be the form. It is above form, 
and is its essence, the universal in the individual, or the 
individuality itself, — the glance and the exponent of the 
indwelling power. 

Each thing that lives has its moment of self-exposition, 
and so has each period of each thing, if we remove the dis- 
turbing forces of accident. To do this is the business of 
ideal art, whether in images of childhood, youth, or age, 
in man or in woman. Hence a good portrait is the 
abstract of the personal ; it is not the likeness for actual 
comparison, but for recollection. This explains why the 
likeness of a very good portrait is not always recognized ; 
because some persons never abstract, and amongst these 
are especially to be numbered the near relations and friends 
of the subject, in consequence of the constant pressure and 
check exercised on their minds by the actual presence of 
the original. And each thing that only appears to live has 
also its possible position of relation to life, as nature herself 
testifies, who, where she cannot be, prophesies her being in 
the crystallized metal, or the inhaling plant. 

The charm, the indispensable requisite, of sculpture is 

1 See the Biographia Literaria of Mr. Coleridge, chap, xii., and Schclllng's 
Transcendental Idealism. 

Lecture XIII. 317 

unity of effect. But painting rests in a material remoter 
from nature, and its compass is therefore greater. Light 
and shade give external, as well as internal, being even 
with all its accidents, whilst sculpture is confined to the 
latter. And here I may observe that the subjects chosen 
for works of art, whether in sculpture or painting, should 
be such as really are capable of being expressed and con- 
veyed within the limits of those arts. Moreover they ought 
to be such as will affect the spectator by their truth, their 
beauty, or their sublimity, and therefore they may be 
addressed to the judgment, the senses, or the reason. The 
peculiarity of the impression which they may make, may 
be derived either from colour and form, or from proportion 
and fitness, or from the excitement of the moral feelings ; or 
all these may be combined. Such works as do combine 
these sources of effect must have the preference in dignity. 

Imitation of the antique may be too exclusive, and may 
produce an injurious effect on modern sculpture ; — ist, 
generally, because such an imitation cannot fail to have a 
tendency to keep the attention fixed on externals rather 
than on the thought within ; — 2ndly, because, accordingly, 
it leads the artist to rest satisfied with that which is always 
imperfect, namely, bodily form, and circumscribes his 
views of mental expression to the ideas of power and 
grandeur only ; — Srdly, because it induces an effort to 
combine together two incongruous things, that is to say, 
modern feelings in antique forms ; — 4thly, because it 
speaks in a language, as it were, learned and dead, the tones 
of which, being unfamiliar, leave the common spectator 
cold and unimpressed ; — and lastly, because it necessarily 
causes a neglect of thoughts, emotions and images of pro- 
founder interest and more exalted dignity, as motherly, 
sisterly, and brotherly love, piety, devotion, the divine 
become human, — the Virgin, the Apostle, the Christ. The 
artist's principle in the statue of a great man should be the 
illustration of departed merit ; and I cannot but think 
that a skilful adoption of modern habiliments would, in 
many instances, give a variety and force of effect which a 
bigoted adherence to Greek or Roman costume precludes. 
It is, I believe, from artists finding Greek models unfit for 
several important modern purposes, that we see so many 
allegorical figures on monuments and elsewhere. Painting 
was, as it were, a new art, and being unshackled by old 

3i8 Course of Lectures 

models it chose its own subjects, and took an eagle's 
flight. And a new field seems opened for modern sculpture 
m the symbolical expression of the ends of life, as in 
Guy's monument, Chantrey's children in Worcester Cathe- 
dral, &c. 

Architecture exhibits the greatest extent of the difference 
from nature which may exist in works of art. It involves 
all the powers of design, and is sculpture and painting in- 
clusively. It shews the greatness of man, and should at 
the same time teach him humility. 

Music is the most entirely human of the fine arts, and 
has the fewest analoga in nature. Its first delightfulness is 
simple accordance with the ear ; but it is an associated 
thing, and recaUs the deep emotions of the past with an 
intellectual sense of proportion. Every human feeling is 
greater and larger than the exciting cause, — a proof, I 
think, that man is designed for a higher state of existence ; 
and this is deeply implied in music, in which there is always 
something more and beyond the immediate expression. 

With regard to works in all the branches of the fine arts, 
I may remark that the pleasure arising from novelty 
must of course be allowed its due place and weight. This 
pleasure consists in the identity of two opposite elements, 
that is to say — sameness and variety. If in the midst of 
the variety there be not some fixed object for the attention, 
the unceasing succession of the variety will prevent the 
mind from observing the difference of the individual 
objects ; and the only thing remaining will be the suc- 
cession, which will then produce precisely the same effect 
as sameness. This we experience when we let the trees or 
hedges pass before the fixed eye during a rapid movement 
in a carriage, or on the other hand, when we suffer a file of 
soldiers or ranks of men in procession to go on before us 
without resting the eye on any one in particular. In order 
to derive pleasure from the occupation of the mind, the 
principle of unity must always be present, so that in the 
midst of the multeity the centripetal force be never sus- 
pended, nor the sense be fatigued by the predominance of 
the centrifugal force. This unity in multeity I have else- 
where stated as the principle of beauty. It is equally the 
source of pleasure in variety, and in fact a higher term 
including both. What is the seclusive or distinguishing 
term between them ! 

Lecture XIV. 319 

Remember that there is a difference between form as 
proceeding, and shape as superinduced ; — the latter is 
either the death or the imprisonment of the thing ; — the 
former is its self-witnessing and self-effected sphere of 
agency. Art would or should be the abridgment of 
nature. Now the fulness of nature is without character, 
as water is purest when without taste, smell, or colour ; 
but this is the highest, the apex only, — it is not the whole. 
The object of art is to give the whole ad hominem ; hence 
each step of nature hath its ideal, and hence the possibility 
of a climax up to the perfect form of a harmonized chaos. 

To the idea of life victory or strife is necessary ; as 
virtue consists not simply in the absence of vices, but in the 
overcoming of them. So it is in beauty. The sight of 
what is subordinated and conquered heightens the strength 
and the pleasure ; and this should be exhibited by the 
artist either inclusively in his figure, or else out of it and 
beside it to act by way of supplement and contrast. And 
with a view to this, remark the seeming identity of body and 
mind in infants, and thence the loveliness of the former ; 
the commencing separation in boyhood, and the struggle of 
equilibrium in youth : thence onward the body is first 
simply indifferent ; then demanding the translucency of 
the mind not to be worse than indifferent ; and finally all 
that presents the body as body becoming almost of an 
excremental nature. 


On Style. 

I HAVE, I believe, formerly observed with regard to the 
character of the governments of the East, that their 
tendency was despotic, that is, towards unity ; whilst that 
of the Greek governments, on the other hand, leaned to 
the manifold and the popular, the unity in them being 
purely ideal, namely of all as an identification of the whole. 
In the northern or Gothic nations the aim and purpose of 
the government were the preservation of the rights and 
interests of the individual in conjunction with those of the 
whole. The individual interest was sacred. In the char- 
acter and tendency of the Greek and Gothic languages there 

320 Course of Lectures 

is precisely the same relative difference. In Greek the 
sentences are long, and the structure architectural, so that 
each part or clause is insignificant when compared with 
the whole. The result is every thing, the steps and pro- 
cesses nothing. But in the Gothic and, generally, in what 
we call the modern, languages, the structure is short, 
simple, and complete in each part, and the connexion of the 
parts with the sum total of the discourse is maintained by 
the sequency of the logic, or the community of feelings 
excited between the writer and his readers. As an instance 
equally delightful and complete, of what may be called the 
Gothic structure as contradistinguished from that of the 
Greeks, let me cite a part of our famous Chaucer's char- 
acter of a parish priest as he should be. Can it ever be 
quoted too often ? 

A good man ther was of religioun 

That was a poure Parsone of a toun, 

But riche he WcLS of holy thought and werk ; 

He w£LS also a lerned man, a clerk, 

That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche ; 

His parishens ^ devoutly wolde he teche ; 

Benigne he was, and wonder ^ diligent, 

And in adversite ful patient, 

And swiche ^ he was ypreved * often sithes ^ ; 

Ful loth were him to cursen for his tithes, 

But rather wolde he yeven ^ out of doute 

Unto his poure parishens aboute 

Of his offring, and eke of his substance ; 

He coude in litel thing have suffisance : 

Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder. 

But he ne ' left nought for no rain ne « thonder. 

In sikenesse and in mischief to visite 

The ferrest ^ in his parish moche and lite ^° 

Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf : 

This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,'^ 

That first he wnrought, and afterward he taught, 

Out of the gospel he the wordes caught, 

And this figure he added yet thereto, 

That if gold ruste, what should iren do. 

He sette not his benefice to hire, 
And lette ^^ his shepe accombred ^^ in the mire. 
And ran unto London unto Seint Poules, 
To seken him a chanterie for soules. 
Or with a brotherhede to be withold, 
But dwelt at home, and kepte wel his fold, 

1 Parishioners. " Wondrous. ' Such. 

* Proved. ^ Times. ^ Give or have given. 

7 Not. 8 Nor. 8 Farthest. 

10 Great and small. " Gave. ^ Left. 13 Encumbered 

Lecture XIV. 321 

So that the wolf ne made it not miscarie : 

He was a shepherd and no mercenarie ; 

And though he holy were and vertuous. 

He was to sinful men not dispitous,^ 

Ne of his speche dangerous ne digne,'* 

But in his teching discrete and benigne, 

To drawen folk to heven with fairenesse, 

By good ensample was his besinesse ; 

But it were any persone obstinat, 

What so he were of high or low estat, 

Him wolde he snibben ^ sharply for the nones : 

A better preest I trowe that no wher non is ; 

He waited after no pompe ne reverence, 

He maked him no spiced conscience, 

But Cristes love and his apostles' twelve 

He taught, but first he folwed it himselve.* 

Such change as really took place in the style of our 
literature after Chaucer's time is with difficulty perceptible, 
on account of the death of writers, during the civil wars of 
the 15th century. But the transition was not very great ; 
and accordingly we find in Latimer and our other venerable 
authors about the time of Edward VI. as in Luther, the 
general characteristics of the earliest manner ; — that is, 
every part popular, and the discourse addressed to all 
degrees of intellect ; — the sentences short, the tone 
vehement, and the connexion of the whole produced by 
honesty and singleness of purpose, intensity of passion, and 
pervading importance of the subject. 

Another and a very different species of style is that 
which was derived from, and founded on, the admiration 
and cultivation of the classical writers, and which was more 
exclusively addressed to the learned class in society. I 
have previously mentioned Boccaccio as the original 
Italian introducer of this manner, and the great models of it 
in English are Hooker, Bacon, Milton, and Taylor, although 
it may be traced in many other authors of that age. In all 
these the language is dignified but plain, genuine English, 
although elevated and brightened by superiority of in- 
tellect in the writer. Individual words themselves are 
always used by them in their precise meaning, without 
either affectation or slipslop. The letters and state papers 
of Sir Francis Walsingham are remarkable for excellence 
in style of this description. In Jeremy Taylor the 
sentences are often extremely long, and yet are generally 

i Despiteous. - Proud. 3 Reprove. 4 Proloeue to Canterbury Tales. 


322 Course of Lectures 

so perspicuous in consequence of their logical structure, 
that they require no perusal to be understood ; and it is for 
the most part the same in Milton and Hooker. 

Take the following sentence as a specimen of the sort of 
style to which I have been alluding : — 

Concerning Faith, the principal object whereof is that eternal 
verity which hath discovered the treasures of hidden wisdom in 
Christ ; concerning Hope, the highest object whereof is that ever- 
lasting goodness which in Christ doth quicken the dead ; concerning 
Charity, the final object whereof is that incomprehensible beauty 
which shineth in the countenance of Christ, the Son of the living 
God : concerning these virtues, the first of which beginning here 
with a weak apprehension of things not seen, endeth with the 
intuitive vision of God in the world to come ; the second beginning 
here with a trembling expectation of things far removed, and as 
yet but only heard of, endeth with real and actual fruition of that 
which no tongue can express ; the third beginning here with a 
weak inclination of heart towards him unto whom we are not able 
to approach, endeth with endless union, the mystery whereof is 
higher than the reach of the thoughts of men ; concerning that 
Faith, Hope, and Charity, v.-ithout which there can be no salvation, 
was there ever any mention made saving only in that Law which 
God himself hath from Heaven revealed ? There is not in the 
world a syllable muttered with certain truth concerning any of 
these three, more than hath been supernaturally received from the 
mouth of the eternal God. 

Eccles. Pol. I. s. II. 

The unity in these writers is produced by the unity of 
the subject, and the perpetual growth and evolution of the 
thoughts, one generating, and explaining, and justifying, 
the place of another, not, as it is in Seneca, where the 
thoughts, striking as they are, are merely strung together 
like beads, without any causation or progression. The 
words are selected because they are the most appropriate, 
regard being had to the dignity of the total impression, and 
no merely big phrases are used where plain ones would have 
sufficed, even in the most learned of their works. 

There is some truth in a remark, which I believe was 
made by Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the greatest man is he 
who forms the taste of a nation, and that the next greatest 
is he who corrupts it. The true classical style of Hooker and 
his fellows was easily open to corruption ; and Sir Thomas 
Brown it was, who, though a writer of great genius, first 
effectually injured the literary taste of the nation by his 
introduction of learned words, merely because they were 
learned. It would be difficult to describe Brown ade- 

Lecture XIV. 323 

quately ; exuberant in conception and conceit, dignified, 
hyperlatinistic, a quiet and sublime enthusiast ; yet a 
fantast, a humourist, a brain with a twist ; egotistic Uke 
Montaigne, yet with a feehng heart and an active curiosity, 
which, however, too often degenerates into a hunting after 
oddities. In his Hydriotaphia and, indeed, almost all his 
"works the entireness of his mental action is very observable ; 
he metamorphoses every thing, be it what it may, into the 
subject under consideration. But Sir Thomas Brown 
with all his faults had a genuine idiom ; and it is the exist- 
ence of an individual idiom in each, that makes the prin- 
cipal writers before the Restoration the great patterns or 
integers of English style. In them the precise intended 
meaning of a word can never be mistaken ; whereas in the 
latter writers, as especially in Pope, the use of words is for 
the most part purely arbitrary, so that the context will 
rarely show the true specific sense, but only that something 
of the sort is designed. A perusal of the authorities cited 
by Johnson in his dictionary under any leading word, will 
give you a lively sense of this declension in etymologi- 
cal truth of expression in the writers after the Restora- 
tion, or perhaps, strictly, after the middle of the reign of 
Charles II. 

The general characteristic of the style of our literature 
down to the period which I have just mentioned, was 
gravity, and in Milton and some other writers of his day 
there are perceptible traces of the sternness of republican- 
ism. Soon after the Restoration a material change took 
place, and the cause of royalism was graced, sometimes 
disgraced, by every shade of lightness of manner. A free 
and easy style was considered as a test of loyalty, or at 
all events, as a badge of the cavalier party ; you may 
detect it occasionally even in Barrow, who is, however, in 
general remarkable for dignity and logical sequency of 
expression ; but in L' Estrange, CoUyer, and the writers 
of that class, this easy manner was carried out to the 
utmost extreme of slang and ribaldry. Yet still the works, 
even of these last authors, have considerable merit in one 
point of view ; their language is level to the understand- 
ings of all men ; it is an actual transcript of the collo- 
quialism of the day, and is accordingly full of life and 
reality. Roger North's life of his brother, the Lord 
Keeper, is the most valuable specimen of this class of our 

324 Course of Lectures 

literature ; it is delightful, and much beyond any other 
of the writings of his contemporaries. 

From the common opinion that the English style 
attained its greatest perfection in and about Queen Ann's 
reign I altogether dissent ; not only because it is in one 
species alone in which it can be pretended that the writers 
of that age excelled their predecessors ; but also because 
the specimens themselves are not equal, upon sound prin- 
ciples of judgment, to much that had been produced 
before. The classical structure of Hooker — the impetuous, 
thought-agglomerating flood of Taylor — to these there is 
no pretence of a parallel ; and for mere ease and grace, is 
Cowley inferior to Addison, being as he is so much more 
thoughtful and full of fancy ? Cowley, with the omission 
of a quaintness here and there, is probably the best model 
of style for modern imitation in general. Taylor's periods 
have been frequently attempted by his admirers ; you 
may, perhaps, just catch the turn of a simile or single 
image, but to write in the real manner of Jeremy Taylor 
would require as mighty a mind as his. Many parts of 
Algernon Sidney's treatises afford excellent exemplars of 
a good modern practical style ; and Dryden in his prose 
works, is a still better model, if you add a stricter and 
purer grammar. It is, indeed, worthy of remark that all 
our great poets have been good prose writers, as Chaucer, 
Spenser, Milton ; and this probably arose from their just 
sense of metre. For a true poet will never confound verse 
and prose ; whereas it is almost characteristic of indifferent 
prose writers that they should be constantly slipping into 
scraps of metre. Swift's style is, in its line, perfect ; the 
manner is a complete expression of the matter, the terms 
appropriate, and the artifice concealed. It is simplicity 
in the true sense of the word. 

After the Revolution, the spirit of the nation became 
much more commercial, than it had been before ; a 
learned body, or clerisy, as such, gradually disappeared, 
and literature in general began to be addressed to the 
common miscellaneous public. That public had become 
accustomed to, and required, a strong stimulus ; and to 
meet the requisitions of the public taste, a style was 
produced which by combining triteness of thought with 
singularity and excess of manner of expression, was calcu- 
lated at once to soothe ignorance and to flatter vanity. 

Lecture XIV. 325 

The thought was carefully kept down to the immediate 
apprehension of the commonest understanding, and the 
dress was as anxiously arranged for the purpose of making 
the thought appear something very profound. The essence 
of this style consisted in a mock antithesis, that is, an 
opposition of mere sounds, in a rage for personification, 
the abstract made animate, far-fetched metaphors, strange 
phrases, metrical scraps, in every thing, in short, but 
genuine prose. Style is, of course, nothing else but the 
art of conveying the meaning appropriately and with 
perspicuity, whatever that meaning may be, and one 
criterion of style is that it shall not be translateable with- 
out injury to the meaning. Johnson's style has pleased 
many from the very fault of being perpetually translate- 
able ; he creates an impression of cleverness by never 
saying any thing in a common way. The best specimen 
of this manner is in Junius, because his antithesis is less 
merely verbal than Johnson's. Gibbon's manner is the 
worst of all ; it has every fault of which this peculiar style 
is capable. Tacitus is an example of it in Latin ; in 
coming from Cicero you feel the falsetto immediately. 

In order to form a good style, the primary rule and 
condition is, not to attempt to express ourselves in language 
before we thoroughly know our own meaning : — when a 
man perfectly understands himself, appropriate diction 
will generally be at his command either in writing or 
speaking. In such cases the thoughts and the words are 
associated. In the next place preciseness in the use of 
terms is required, and the test is whether you can translate 
the phrase adequately into simpler terms, regard being had 
to the feeling of the whole passage. Try this upon Shak- 
speare, or Milton, and see if you can substitute other 
simpler words in any given passage without a violation of 
the meaning or tone. The source of bad writing is the 
desire to be something more than a man of sense, — the 
straining to be thought a genius ; and it is just the same 
in speech-making. If men would only say what they 
ha\e to say in plain terms, how much more eloquent they 
would be ! Another rule is to avoid converting mere 
abstractions into persons. I believe you will very rarely 
find in any great writer before the Revolution the possessive 
case of an inanimate noun used in prose instead of the 
dependent case, as 'the watch's hand,' for 'the hand of 


Idea of the 

the watch. ' The possessive or Saxon genitive was confined 
to persons, or at least to animated subjects. And I cannot 
conclude this Lecture without insisting on the importance 
of accuracy of style as being near akin to veracity and 
truthful habits of mind ; he who thinks loosely will write 
loosely, and, perhaps, there is some moral inconvenience 
in the common forms of our grammars which give children 
so many obscure terms for material distinctions. Let me 
also exhort you to careful examination of what you read, if 
it be worthy any perusal at all ; such examination will be 
a safeguard from fanaticism, the universal origin of which 
is in the contemplation of phenomena without investigation 
into their causes. 



An Essay, preparatory to a series of disquisitions respecting the 
Egyptian, in connexion with the sacerdotal, theology, and in 
contrast with the mysteries of ancient Greece. Read at the Royal 
Society of Literature, May i8, 1825. 

The French savans who went to Egypt in the train of 
Buonaparte, Denon, Fourrier, and Dupuis, (it has been 
asserted,) triumphantly vindicated the chronology of 
Herodotus, on the authority of documents that cannot 
lie ; — namely the inscriptions and sculptures on those 
enormous masses of architecture, that might seem to have 
been built in the wish of rivalling the mountains, and at 
some unknown future to answer the same purpose, that 
is, to stand the gigantic tombstones of an elder world. It 
is decided, say the critics, whose words I have before cited, 
that the present division of the zodiac had been already 
arranged by the Egyptians fifteen thousand years before 
the Christian era, and according to an inscription 'which 
cannot lie* the temple of Esne is of eight thousand years 

Now, in the first place, among a people who had placed 
their national pride in their antiquity, I do not see the 
impossibility of an inscription lying ; and, secondly, as 
little can I see the improbability of a modern interpreter 
misunderstanding it ; and lastly, the incredibility of a 

Prometheus of ^schylus 327 

French infidel's partaking of both defects, is still less 
evident to my understanding. The inscriptions may be, 
and in some instances, very probably are, of later date 
than the temples themselves, — the offspring of vanity or 
priestly rivalry, or of certain astrological theories ; or the 
temples themselves may have been built in the place of 
former and ruder structures, of an earlier and ruder 
period, and not impossibly under a different scheme of 
hieroglyphic or significant characters ; and these may 
have been intentionally, or ignorantly, miscopied or mis- 

But more than all the preceding, — I cannot but persuade 
myself, that for a man of sound judgment and enlightened 
common sense — a man with whom the demonstrable laws 
of the human mind, and the rules generahzed from the 
great mass of facts respecting human nature, weigh more 
than any two or three detached documents or narrations, 
of whatever authority the narrator may be, and however 
difficult it may be to bring positive proofs against the 
antiquity of the documents — I cannot but persuade myself, 
I say, that for such a man, the relation preserved in the 
first book of the Pentateuch, — and which, in perfect 
accordance with all analogous experience, with all the 
facts of history, and all that the principles of political 
economy would lead us to anticipate, conveys to us the 
rapid progress in civilization and splendour from Abraham 
and Abimelech to Joseph and Pharaoh, — will be worth a 
whole library of such inferences. 

I am aware that it is almost universal to speak of the 
gross idolatry of Egypt ; nay, that arguments have been 
grounded on this assumption in proof of the divine origin 
of the Mosaic monotheism. But first, if by this we are to 
understand that the great doctrine of the one Supreme 
Being was first revealed to the Hebrew legislator, his own 
inspired writings supply abundant and direct confutation 
of the position. Of certain astrological superstitions, — 
of certain talismans connected with star-magic, — plates 
and images constructed in supposed harmony with the 
movements and influences of celestial bodies, — there 
doubtless exist hints, if not direct proofs, both in the 
Mosaic writings, and those next to these in antiquity. 
But of plain idolatry in Egypt, or the existence of a 
polytheistic religion, represented by various idols, each 

328 Idea of the 

signif5dng a several deity, I can find no decisive proof in 
the Pentateuch ; and when I collate these with the books 
of the prophets, and the other inspired writings subse- 
quent to the Mosaic, I cannot but regard the absence of 
any such proof in the latter, compared with the numerous 
and powerful assertions, or evident impHcations, of 
Egyptian idolatry in the former, both as an argument of 
incomparably greater value in support of the age and 
authenticity of the Pentateuch ; and as a strong pre- 
sumption in favour of the hypothesis on which I shall in 
part ground the theory which will pervade this series of 
disquisitions ; — namely, that the sacerdotal religion of 
Egypt had, during the interval from Abimelech to Moses, 
degenerated from the patriarchal monotheism into a pan- 
theism, cosmotheism, or worship of the world as God. 

The reason or pretext, assigned by the Hebrew legislator 
to Pharaoh for leading his countrymen into the wilderness 
to join with their brethren, the tribes who still sojourned 
in the nomadic state, namely, that their sacrifices would 
be an abomination to the Egyptians, may be urged as 
inconsistent with, nay, as confuting this hypothesis. But 
to this I reply, first, that the worship of the ox and cow was 
not, in and of itself, and necessarily, a contravention of the 
first commandment, though a very gross breach of the 
second ; — for it is most certain that the ten tribes wor- 
shipped the Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob, under the same or similar s3mibols : — secondly 
that the cow, or Isis, and the lo of the Greeks, truly repre- 
sented, in the first instance, the earth or productive nature, 
and afterwards the mundane religion grounded on the wor- 
ship of nature, or the to crai', as God. In after times, the ox 
or bull was added, representing the sun, or generative 
force of nature, according to the habit of male and female 
deities, which spread almost over the whole world, — the 
positive and negative forces in the science of superstition ; 
— for the pantheism of the sage necessarily engenders 
polytheism as the popular creed. But lastly, a very 
sufficient reason may, I think, be assigned for the choice 
of the ox or cow, as representing the very life of nature, 
by the first legislators of Egypt, and for the similar sacred 
character in the Brahmanic tribes of Hindostan. The 
progress from savagery to civilization is evidently first 
from the hunting to the pastoral state, a process which 

Prometheus of ^schylus 329 

even now is going on, within our own times, among the 
South American Indians in the vast tracts between Buenos 
Ayres and the Andes : but the second and the most im- 
portant step, is from the pastoral, or wandering, to the 
agricultural, or fixed, state. Now, if even for men born 
and reared under European civilization, the charms of a 
wandering hfe have been found so great a temptation, 
that few who have taken to it have been induced to return 
(see the confession in the preamble to the statute respecting 
the gipsies) ; ^ — how much greater must have been the 
danger of relapse in the first formation of fixed states with 
a condensed population ? And what stronger prevention 
could the ingenuity of the priestly kings — (for the priestly 
is ever the first form of government) — devise, than to 
have made the ox or cow the representatives of the divine 
principle in the world, and, as such, an object of adoration, 
the wilful destruction of which was sacrilege ? — For this 
rendered a return to the pastoral state impossible ; in 
which the flesh of these animals and the milk formed 
almost the exclusive food of mankind ; while, in the 
meantime, by once compelling and habituating men to the 
use of a vegetable diet, it enforced the laborious cultivation 
of the soil, and both produced and permitted a vast and 
condensed population. In the process and continued 
sub-divisions of polytheism, this great sacred Word, — 
for so the consecrated animals were called, }spoi Xoyoi, — 
became multiplied, tiU almost every power and supposed 
attribute of nature had its symbol in some consecrated 
animal from the beetle to the hawk. Wherever the powers 
of nature had found a cycle for themselves, in which the 
powers still produced the same phenomenon during a given 
period, whether in the motions of the heavenly orbs, or in 
the smallest living organic body, there the Egyptian sages 
predicated life and mind. Time, cyclical time, was their 
abstraction of the deity, and their holidays were their gods. 
The diversity between theism and pantheism may be 
most simply and generally expressed in the following 
formula, in which the material universe is expressed by 
W, and the deity by G. 


1 The Act meant is probably the 5. Eliz. c. 20, enforcing the two previous Acts of 
Henry VIII. and Philip and Mary, and reciting that natural born Englishmen had 
' become of the fellowship of the said vagabonds, by transforming or disguising them* 
selves in their apparel,' &c. — Ed. 

330 Idea of the 

or the World without God is an impossible conception. 
This position is common to theist and pantheist. But 
the pantheist adds the converse — 
G-\V = 0; 
for which the theist substitutes — 

G-W = G; 
or that — 

G = G, anterior and irrelative to the existence of the 
world, is equal to G + W.^ 

Before the mountains were, Thou art. — I am not about to 
lead the society beyond the bounds of my subject into 
divinity or theology in the professional sense. But with- 
out a precise definition of pantheism, without a clear 
insight into the essential distinction between it and the 
theism of the Scriptures, it appears to me impossible to 
understand either the import or the history of the poly- 
theism of the great historical nations. I beg leave, there- 
fore, to repeat, and to carry on my former position, that 
the religion of Egypt, at the time of the Exodus of the 
Hebrews, was a pantheism, on the point of passing into 
that polytheism, of which it afterwards afforded a specimen, 
gross and distasteful even to polytheists themselves of 
other nations. 

The objects which, on my appointment as Royal 
Associate of the Royal Society of Literature, I proposed to 
myself were, ist. The elucidation of the purpose of the 
Greek drama, and the relations in which it stood to the 
mysteries on the one hand, and to the state or sacerdotal 
religion on the other : — 2nd. The connection of the Greek 
tragic poets with philosophy as the peculiar offspring of 
Greek genius : — 3rd. The connection of the Homeric and 
cyclical poets with the popular religion of the Greeks : and, 
lastly from all these, — namely, the mysteries, the sacer- 
dotal religion, their philosophy before and after Socrates, 
the stage, the Homeric poetry and the legendary belief of 
the people, and from the sources and productive causes in 
the derivation and confluence of the tribes that finally 
shaped themselves into a nation of Greeks — to give a juster 

1 Mr. Coleridge was in the constant habit of expres>ing himself on paper by the 
algebraic symbols. They have an uncouth look in the text of an ordinary essay, and I 
have sometimes ventured to render them by the equivalent words. But most of the 
readers of these volumes will know that - means less by, or, without; + nro^-e by, or. ifi 
addition to; = equal to, or, the same as. — E,i. 

Prometheus of ^schylus 331 

and more distinct view of this singular people, and of the 
place which they occupied in the history of the world, and 
the great scheme of divine providence, than I have hitherto 
seen, — or rather let me say, than it appears to me possible 
to give by any other process. 

The present Essay, however, I devote to the purpose of 
removing, or at least invalidating, one objection that I may 
reasonably anticipate, and which may be conveyed in the 
following question : — What proof have you of the fact of 
any connection between the Greek drama, and either the 
mysteries, or the philosophy, of Greece ? What proof that 
it was the office of the tragic poet, under a disguise of the 
sacerdotal religion, mixed with the legendary or popular 
belief, to reveal as much of the mysteries interpreted by 
philosophy, as would counteract the demoralizing effects 
of the state religion, without compromising the tranquillity 
of the state itself, or weakening that paramount reverence, 
without which a republic, (such, I mean, as the republics of 
ancient Greece were) could not exist ? 

I know no better way in which I can reply to this objec- 
tion, than by giving, as my proof and instance, the Pro- 
metheus of iEschylus, accompanied with an exposition of 
what I believe to be the intention of the poet, and the 
mythic import of the work ; of which it may be truly said, 
that it is more properly tragedy itself in the plenitude of the 
idea, than a particular tragic poem ; and as a preface to 
this exposition, and for the twin purpose of rendering it 
intelligible, and of explaining its connection with the whole 
scheme of my Essays, I entreat permission to insert a 
quotation from a work of my own, which has indeed been in 
print for many years, but which few of my auditors will 
probably have heard of, and still fewer, if any, have read. 

" As the representative of the youth and approaching 
manhood of the human intellect we have ancient Greece, 
from Orpheus, Linus, Musaeus, and the other mythological 
bards, or, perhaps, the brotherhoods impersonated under 
those names, to the time when the republics lost their 
independence, and their learned men sank into copyists of, 
and commentators on, the works of their forefathers. That 
we include these as educated under a distinct providential, 
though not miraculous, dispensation, will surprise no one, 
who reflects, that in whatever has a permanent operation 
on the destinies and intellectual condition of mankind at 

332 Idea of the 

large, — that in all which has been manifestly employed as 
a co-agent in the mightiest revolution of the moral world, 
the propagation of the Gospel, and in the intellectual pro- 
gress of mankind in the restoration of philosophy, science, 
and the ingenuous arts — it were irreligion not to acknow- 
ledge the hand of divine providence. The periods, too, 
join on to each other. The earliest Greeks took up the 
religious and lyrical poetry of the Hebrews ; and the 
schools of the prophets were, however partially and imper- 
fectly, represented by the mysteries derived through the 
corrupt channel of the Phoenicians ! With these secret 
schools of physiological theology, the mythical poets were 
doubtless in connexion, and it was these schools which pre- 
vented polytheism from producing all its natural barbariz- 
ing effects. The mysteries and the mythical hymns and 
paeans shaped themselves gradually into epic poetry and 
history on the one hand, and into the ethical tragedy and 
philosophy on the other. Under their protection, and that 
of a youthful liberty, secretly controlled by a species of 
internal theocracy, the sciences, and the sterner kinds of 
the fine arts, that is, architecture and statuary, grew up 
together, followed, indeed, by painting, but a statuesque, 
and austerely idealized, painting, which did not degenerate 
into mere copies of the sense, till the process for which 
Greece existed had been completed." ^ 

The Greeks alone brought forth philosophy in the proper 
and contra-distinguishable sense of the term, which we may 
compare to the coronation medal with its symbolic char- 
acters, as contrasted with the coins, issued under the same 
sovereign, current in the market. In the primary sense, 
philosophy had for its aim and proper subject the rd 
mpi cLpyZ^v, de originihus rermn, as far as man proposes to 
discover the same in and by the pure reason alone. This, 
I say, was the offspring of Greece, and elsewhere adopted 
only. The pre-disposition appears in their earliest poetry. 

The first object (or subject matter) of Greek philosophiz- 
ing was in some measure philosophy itself ; — not, indeed, 
as a product, but as the producing power — the produc- 
tivity. Great minds turned inward on the fact of the 
diversity between man and beast ; a superiority of kind in 
addition to that of degree ; the latter, that is, the difference 
in degree comprehending the more enlarged sphere and the 

1 Friend, III. Essay 9. 

Prometheus of ^schylus 333 

multifold application of faculties common to man and 
brute animals ; — even this being in great measure a trans- 
fusion from the former, namely, from the superiority in 
kind ; — for only by its co-existence with reason, free-will, 
self-consciousness, the contra-distinguishing attributes of 
man, does the instinctive intelligence manifested in the ant, 
the dog, the elephant, &c. become human understanding. 
It is a truth with which HeracUtus, the senior, but yet 
contemporary, of ^schylus, appears, from the few genuine 
fragments of his writings that are yet extant, to have been 
deeply impressed, — that the mere understanding in man, 
considered as the power of adapting means to immediate 
purposes, differs, indeed, from the intelligence displayed by 
other animals, and not in degree only ; but yet does not 
differ by any excellence which it derives from itself, or by 
any inherent diversity, but solely in consequence of a 
combination with far higher powers of a diverse kind in 
one and the same subject. 

Long before the entire separation of metaphysics from 
poetry, that is, while yet poesy, in all its several species 
of verse, music, statuary, &c. continued mythic ; — while 
yet poetry remained the union of the sensuous and the 
philosophic mind ; — the efficient presence of the latter in 
the synthesis of the two, had manifested itself in the 
sublime mythus 'rrspi ysvsfficug Tou i/eD h di'^poj'roTg, concern- 
ing the genesis, or birth of the vou? or reason in man. 
This the most venerable, and perhaps the most ancient, of 
Grecian mythi, is a philosopheme, the very same in subject 
matter with the earliest record of the Hebrews, but most 
characteristically different in tone and conception ; — for 
the patriarchal religion, as the antithesis of pantheism, 
was necessarily personal ; and the doctrines of a faith, 
the first ground of which and the primary enunciation, 
is the eternal I am, must be in part historic and must 
assume the historic form. Hence the Hebrew record is 
a narrative, and the first instance of the fact is given as 
the origin of the fact. 

That a profound truth — a truth that is, indeed, the 
grand and indispensable condition of all moral responsi- 
bility — is involved in this characteristic of the sacred 
narrative, I am not alone persuaded, but distinctly aware. 
This, however, does not preclude us from seeing, nay, as 
an additional mark of the wisdom that inspired the sacred 

334 Idea of the 

historian, it rather supplies a motive to us, impels and 
authorizes us, to see, in the form of the vehicle of the truth, 
an accommodation to the then childhood of the human 
race. Under this impression we may, I trust, safely con- 
sider the narration, — introduced, as it is here introduced, 
for the purpose of explaining a mere work of the unaided 
mind of man by comparison, — as an sVog 'upoy'kvc^ixhv^ — 
and as such (apparently, I mean, not actually) a synthesis 
of poesy and philosophy, characteristic of the childhood 
of nations. 

In the Greek we see already the dawn of approaching 
manhood. The substance, the stuff, is philosophy ; the 
form only is poetry. The Prometheus is a philosophema 
ravrriycpixhv, — the tree of knowledge of good and evil, — 
an allegory, a cr^cra/^gy.aa, though the noblest and the 
most pregnant of its kind. 

The generation of the koD^, or pure reason in man. i. 
It was superadded or infused, a supra to mark that it 
was no mere evolution of the animal basis ; — that it could 
not have grown out of the other faculties of man, his life, 
sense, understanding, as the flower grows out of the stem, 
having pre-existed potentially in the seed : 2. The voZg, 
or fire, was 'stolen,' — to mark its hetero — or rather its 
a/^-geneity, that is, its diversity, its difference in kind, 
from the faculties which are common to man with the 
nobler animals : 3. And stolen 'from Heaven,' — to mark 
its superiority in kind, as well as its essential diversity : 
4. And it was a 'spark,' — to mark that it is not subject 
to any modifying reaction from that on which it immedi- 
ately acts ; that it suffers no change, and receives no 
accession, from the inferior, but multiplies itself by con- 
version, without being alloyed by, or amalgamated with, 
that which it potentiates, ennobles, and transmutes : 5. 
And lastly, (in order to imply the homogeneity of the 
donor and of the gift) it was stolen by a 'god,' and a god 
of the race before the dynasty of Jove, — Jove the binder 
of reluctant powers, the coercer and entrancer of free 
spirits under the fetters of shape, and mass, and passive 
mobility ; but likewise by a god of the same race and 
essence with Jove, and linked of yore in closest and 
friendhest intimacy with him. This, to mark the pre- 
existence, in order of thought, of the nous, as spiritual, 
both to the objects of sense, and to their products, formed 

Prometheus of ^Eschylus 335 

as it were, by the precipitation, or, if I may dare adopt 
the bold language of Leibnitz, by a coagulation of spirit.^ 
In other words this derivation of the spark from above, 
and from a god anterior to the Jovial dynasty — (that is, 
to the submersion of spirits in material forms), — was 
intended to mark the transcendency of the nous, the con- 
tra-distinctive faculty of man, as timeless, a-/^pov6v n, and, 
in this negative sense, eternal. It signified, I say, its 
superiority to, and its diversity from, all things that 
subsist in space and time, nay, even those which, though 
spaceless, yet partake of time, namely, souls or under- 
standings. For the soul, or understanding, if it be defined 
physiologically as the principle of sensibility, irritability, 
and growth, together with the functions of the organs, 
which are at once the representatives and the instruments 
of these, must be considered in genere, though not in 
degree or dignity, common to man and the inferior animals. 
It was the spirit, the nous, which man alone possessed. 
And I must be permitted to suggest that this notion 
deserves some respect, were it only that it can shew a 
semblance, at least, of sanction from a far higher authority. 
The Greeks agreed with the cosmogonies of the East 
in deriving all sensible forms from the indistinguishable. 
The latter we find designated as the rb aaopipov^ the 
vdup Tpoxoa/MKov, the p(;ao5 as, the essentially unintelligible, 
yet necessarily presumed, basis or sub-position of all 
positions. That it is, scientifically considered, an indis- 
pensable idea for the human mind, just as the mathe- 
matical point, &c. for the geometrician ; — of this the 
various systems of our geologists and cosmogonists, from 
Burnet to La Place, afford strong presumption. As an 
idea, it must be interpreted as a striving of the mind to 
distinguish being from existence, — or potential being, the 
ground of being containing the possibility of existence, 
from being actualized. In the language of the mysteries, 
it was the esurience, the -ro^os or desideratum, the unfuelled 
fire, the Ceres, the ever-seeking maternal goddess, the 
origin and interpretation of whose name is found in the 
Hebrew root signifying hunger, and thence capacity. It 

1 Schelling ascribes this expression, which I have not been able to find in the works 
of Leibnitz, to Hemsterhuis: " When Leibnitz," says he, "calls matter the sleep-state 
of the Monads, or when Hemsterhuis calls it curdled spirit,— den g^gronnenen Geist.— 
!n fact, matter is no other than spirit contemplated in the equilibrium of its activities." 
Transl. Transfc. Ideal, p. 190. S. C. 

33^ Idea of the 

was, in short, an effort to represent the universal ground 
of all differences distinct or opposite, but in relation to 
which all antithesis as well as all antitheta, existed only 
potentially. This was the container and withholder, 
(such is the primitive sense of the Hebrew word rendered 
darkness (Gen. i. 2)) out of which light, that is, the lux 
lucifica, as distinguished from hunen seu lux phcanomenalis , 
was produced ; — say, rather, that which, producing itself 
into light as the one pole or antagonist power, remained 
in the other pole as darkness, that is, gravity, or the 
principle of mass, or wholeness without distinction of 

And here the pecuHar, the philosophic, genius of Greece 
began its foetal throb. Here it individualized itself in 
contra-distinction from the Hebrew archology, on the 
one side, and from the Phoenician, on the other. The 
Phoenician confounded the indistinguishable with the 
absolute, the Alpha and Omega, the ineffable causa sui. 
It confounded, I say, the multeity below intellect, that is, 
unintelligible from defect of the subject, with the absolute 
identity above all intellect, that is, transcending com- 
prehension by the plenitude of its excellence. With the 
Phoenician sages the cosmogony was their theogony and 
vice ve-rsa. Hence, too, flowed their theurgic rites, their 
magic, their worship (cultus et apotheosis) of the plastic 
forces, chemical and vital, and these, or their notions 
respecting these, formed the hidden meaning, the soul, as 
it were, of which the popular and civil worship was the 
body with its drapery. 

The Hebrew wisdom imperatively asserts an unbeginning 
creative One, who neither became the world ; nor is the 
world eternally ; nor made the world out of himself by 
emanation, or evolution ; — but who willed it, and it was ! 
Ta u9ia lyUiro, xa/ iyivsro x6,oq, — and this chaos, the 
eternal will, by the spirit and the word, or express fiat, — 
again acting as the impregnant, distinctive, and ordonnant 
power, — enabled to become a world — xo<r,as7(rt5a/. So 
must it be when a religion, that shall preclude superstition 
on the one hand, and brute indifference on the other, is 
to be true for the meditative sage, yet intelligible, or at 
least apprehensible, for all but the fools in heart. 

The Greek philosopheme, preser\^ed for us in the iEschy- 
lean Prometheus, stands midway betwixt both, yet is 

Prometheus of ^schylus 337 

distinct in kind from either. With the Hebrew or purer 
Semitic, it assumes an X Y Z, — (I take these letters in their 
alegebraic appHcation) — an indeterminate Elohim, ante- 
cedent to the matter of the world, u>.>j a-Koaixog — no less 
than to the oXrj %ixoG[Mnfji,h7i. In this point, likewise, the 
Greek accorded with the Semitic, and differed from the 
Phoenician — that it held the antecedent X Y Z to be super- 
sensuous and divine. But on the other hand, it coincides 
with the Phoenician in considering this antecedent ground 
of corporeal matter, — ruv GMfMarov xa/ reD crw^ar/xoD, — not so 
properly the cause of the latter, as the occasion and the 
still continuing substance. Materia suhstat adhuc. The 
corporeal was supposed co-essential with the antecedent of 
its corporeity. Matter, as distinguished from body, was a 
non ens, a simple apparition, id quod mere videtiir ; but to 
body the elder physico-theology of the Greeks allowed a 
participation in entity. It was spiritus ipse, oppressus, 
dormiens, et diversis modis somnians. In short, body was 
the productive power suspended, and as it were, quenched 
in the product. This may be rendered plainer by reflecting, 
that, in the pure Semitic scheme there are four terms intro- 
duced in the solution of the problem, i. the beginning, self- 
sufficing, and immutable Creator ; 2. the antecedent night 
as the identity, or including germ, of the light and dark- 
ness, that is, gravity ; 3. the chaos ; and 4. the material 
world resulting from the powers communicated by the 
divine flat. In the Phoenician scheme there are in 
fact but two — a self-organizing chaos, and the omniform 
nature as the result. In the Greek scheme we have three 
terms, i. the hyle jXjj, which holds the place of the chaos, 
or the waters, in the true system ; 2. ra (Tw/^ara, answering 
to the Mosaic heaven and earth ; and 3. the Saturnian ;<^/'o^o/ 
uTipyjo'jioi, — which answer to the antecedent darkness of 
the Mosaic scheme, but to which the elder physico-theo- 
logists attributed a self-polarizing power — a natnra gemina 
qucB fit et facit, agit et patitur. In other words, the Elohim 
of the Greeks were still but a natnra deorum, to km, in which 
a vague plurality adhered ; or if any unity was imagined, 
it was not personal — not a unity of excellence, but simply 
an expression of the negative — that which was to pass, but 
whicli had not yet passed, into distinct form. 

All this will seem strange and obscure at first reading, — 
perhaps fantastic. But it will only seem so. Dry and 

338 Idea of the 

prolix, indeed, it is to me in the writing, full as much as it 
can be to others in the attempt to understand it. But I 
know that, once mastered, the idea will be the key to the 
whole cypher of the ^schylean mythology. The sum 
stated in the terms of philosophic logic is this : First, what 
Moses appropriated to the chaos itself : what Moses made 
passive and a materia subjecta et lucis et tenehrarum, the 
containing vpods/j.evov of the thesis and antithesis ; — this the 
Greek placed anterior to the chaos ; — the chaos itself being 
the struggle between the hyper chrojiia, the Idiat 'n-povo/j^oi, as 
the unevolved, unproduced, prothesis, of which ihia xa/ v6[j.og 
— (idea and law) — are the thesis and antithesis. (I use the 
word 'produced' in the mathematical sense, as a point 
elongating itself to a bi-polar line.) Secondly, what Moses 
establishes, not merely as a transcendant Monas, but as 
an individual 'E^dg likewise ; — this the Greek took as a 
harmony, dsoi d&dvaroi, to dim, as distinguished from o khg 
— or, to adopt the more expressive language of the Pytha- 
goreans and cabalists numen numerantis ; and these are to 
be contemplated as the identity. 

Now according to the Greek philosopheme or mythiis, in 
these, or in this identity, there arose a war, schism, or 
division, that is, a polarization into thesis and antithesis. 
In consequence of this schism in the rh dsTov, the thesis be- 
comes nomos, or law, and the antithesis becomes idea, but 
so that the nomos is nomos, because, and only because, the 
idea is idea : the nomos is not idea, only because the idea 
has not become nomos. And this not must be heedfully 
borne in mind through the whole interpretation of this 
most profound and pregnant philosopheme. The nomos 
is essentially idea, but existentially it is idea, suhstans, that 
is, id quod stat subtus, understanding sensu generalissimo. 
The idea, which now is no longer idea, has substantiated 
itself, become real as opposed to idea, and is henceforward, 
therefore, substans in substantiate. The first product of its 
energy is the thing itself : ipsa se posuit et jam facta est ens 
positum. Still, however, its productive energy is not 
exhausted in this product, but overflows, or is effluent, as 
the specific forces, properties, faculties, of the product. It 
reappears, in short, in the body, as the function of the body. 
As a sufficient illustration, though it cannot be offered as a 
perfect instance, take the followinp^. 

'In the world we see every where evidences of a unity. 

Prometheus of ^schylus 339 

which the component parts are so far from explaining, that 
they necessarily presuppose it as the cause and condition of 
their existing as those parts, or even of their existing at all. 
This antecedent unity, or cause and principle of each union, 
it has since the time of Bacon and Kepler, been customary 
to call a law. This crocus, for instance, or any flower the 
reader may have in sight or choose to bring before his 
fancy ; — that the root, stem, leaves, petals, &c. cohere as 
one plant, is owing to an antecedent power or principle in 
the seed, which existed before a single particle of the 
matters that constitute the size and visibility of the crocus 
had been attracted from the surrounding soil, air, and 
moisture. Shall we turn to the seed ? Here too the same 
necessity meets us, an antecedent unity (I speak not of the 
parent plant, but of an agency antecedent in order of 
operance, yet remaining present as the conservative and 
reproductive power,) must here too be supposed. Analyze 
the seed with the finest tools, and let the solar microscope 
come in aid of your senses, — what do you find ? — means 
and instruments, a wondrous fairy-tale of nature, maga- 
zines of food, stores of various sorts, pipes, spiracles, de- 
fences, — a house of many chambers, and the owner and 
inhabitant invisible.' ^ Now, compare a plant thus con- 
templated with an animal. In the former, the productive 
energy exhausts itself, and as it were, sleeps in the product 
or organismus — in its root, stem, foliage, blossoms, seed. 
Its balsams, gums, resins, aromata, and all other bases of its 
sensible qualities, are, it is v/ell known, mere excretions 
from the vegetable, eliminated, as lifeless, from the actual 
plant. The qualities are not its properties, but the pro- 
perties, or far rather, the dispersion and volatilization of 
these extruded and rejected bases. But in the animal it is 
otherwise. Here the antecedent unity — the productive 
and self-realizing idea — strives, with partial success to re- 
emancipate itself from its product, and seeks once again to 
become idea : vainly indeed : for in order to this, it must 
be retrogressive, and it hath subjected itself to the fates, 
the evolvers of the endless thread — to the stern necessity 
of progression. Idea itself it cannot become, but it may in 
long and graduated process, become an image, an ana- 
logon, an anti-type of idea. And this s'/dcoXov may ap- 
proximate to a perfect likeness. Quod est simile, nequit 

1 Aids to Reflection. Moral and Religious Aphorisms. Aphorism VI. £d. 

340 Idea of the 

esse idem. Thus, in the lower animals, we see this process 
of emancipation commence with the intermediate link, or 
that which forms the transition from properties to faculties, 
namely, with sensation. Then the faculties of sense, 
locomotion, construction, as, for instance, webs, hives, 
nests, &c. Then the functions ; as of instinct, memory, 
fancy, instinctive intelligence, or understanding, as it exists 
in the most intelligent animals. Thus the idea (hence- 
forward no more idea, but irrecoverable by its own fatal 
act) commences the process of its own transmutation, as 
substans in suhstantiato , as the enteleche, or the vis for- 
matrix, and it finishes the process as substans e suhstantiato, 
that is, as the understanding. 

If, for the purpose of elucidating this process, I might be 
allowed to imitate the symbolic language of the algebraists, 
and thus to regard the successive steps of the process as so 
many powers and dignities of the nomos or law, the scheme 
would be represented thus : — 

Nomos^ = Product : N^ = Property : N^ = Faculty : 
N^ = Function : N-'^ = Understanding ; — 

which is, indeed, in one sense, itself a nomos, inasmuch as it 
is the index of the nomos, as well as its highest function ; 
but, like the hand of a watch, it is likewise a nomizomenon. 
It is a verb, but still a verb passive. 

On the other hand, idea is so far co-essential with nomos, 
that by its co-existence — (not confluence) — with the nomos 
sv vo,u.i^ofMsvoig (with the organismus and its faculties and func- 
tions in the man,) it becomes itself a nomos. But, observe, 
a nomos auto nomos, or containing its law in itself likewise ; 
— even as the nomos produces for its hi'^^hest product the 
understanding, so the idea, in its opposition and, of course, 
its correspondence to the nomos, begets in itself an analogon 
to product ; and this is self-consciousness. But as the 
product can never become idea, so neither can the idea (if 
it is to remain idea) become or generate a distinct product. 
This analogon of product is to be itself ; but were it indeed 
and substantially a product, it would cease to be self. It 
would be an object for a subject, not (as it is and must be) 
an object that is its own subject, and vice versa ; a concep- 
tion which, if the uncombining and infusile genius of our 
language allowed it, might be expressed by the term sub- 

Prometheus of ^schylus 341 

ject-object. Now, idea, taken in indissoluble connection 
with this analogon of product is mind, that which knows 
itself, and the existence of which may be inferred, but 
cannot appear or become a phenomenon. 

By the benignity of Providence, the truths of most im- 
portance in themselves, and which it most concerns us to 
know, are familiar to us, even from childhood. Well for us 
if we do not abuse this privilege, and mistake the famili- 
arity of words which convey these truths, for a clear under- 
standing of the truths themselves ! If the preceding dis- 
quisition, with all its subtlety and all its obscurity, should 
answer no other purpose, it will still have been neither 
purposeless, nor devoid of utility, should it only lead us to 
sympathize with the strivings of the human intellect, 
awakened to the infinite importance of the inward oracle 
yvudi ffsavro^ — and almost instinctively shaping its course 
of search in conformity with the Platonic intimation : — 
v^i/y^c (pliffiv d^icijg Xoyov y^aravorjGrn o'in dvvarov fivai, a\'fj 
TTjg Tou oXov <pu6eu; ; but be this as it may, the ground- 
work of the iEschylean mythus is laid in the definition of 
idea and law, as correlatives that mutually interpret each 
the other ; — an idea, with the adequate power of realizing 
itself being a law, and a law considered abstractedly from, 
or in the absence of, the power of manifesting itself in its 
appropriate product being an idea. Whether this be true 
philosophy, is not the question. The school of Aristotle 
would, of course, deny, the Platonic affirm it ; for in this 
consists the difference of the two schools. Both acknow- 
ledge ideas as distinct from the mere generalizations from 
objects of sense : both would define an idea as an ens 
rationale, to which there can be no adequate correspondent 
in sensible experience. But, according to Aristotle, ideas 
are regulative only, and exist only as functions of the 
mind : — according to Plato, they are constitutive likewise, 
and one in essence with the power and life of nature ; — 
iv y.oyu) ^(H7i i]v^ xai i] ^oiTi rjv to (pojg tuv av&pojrruv. And 
this I cLSsert, was the philosophy of the mythic poets, 
who, like ^schylus, adapted the secret doctrines of the 
mysteries as the (not always safely disguised) antidote to 
the debasing influences of the religion of the state. 

But to return and conclude this preliminary explanation. 
We have only to substitute the term will, and the term con- 
stitutive power, for nomos or law, and the process is the 

342 Idea of the 

same. Permit me to represent the identity or prothesis by 
the letter Z and the thesis and antithesis by X and Y re- 
spectively. Then I say X by not being Y, but in con- i 
sequence of being the correlative opposite of Y, is will ; 
and Y, by not being X, but the correlative and opposite of ! 
X, is nature, — natura naturans, vC/j^og (p'jgixog. Hence we 
may see the necessity of contemplating the idea now as 
identical with the reason, and now as one with the will, and ' 
now as both in one, in which last case I shall, for conveni- 
ence sake, employ the term Nous, the rational will, the 
practical reason. 

We are now out of the holy jungle of transcendental 
metaphysics ; if indeed, the reader's patience shall have 
had strength and persistency enough to allow me to 
exclaim — 

Ivimus ambo 
Per densas umbras : at tenet umbra Deum. 

Not that I regard the foregoing as articles of faith, or as all 
true ; — I have implied the contrary by contrasting it with, 
at least, by shewing its disparateness from, the Mosaic, 
which, bona fide, I do regard as the truth. But I believe 
there is much, and profound, truth in it, supra captum 
'^t'koff6(puv, qui non agnoscunt divinum, ideoque nee naturam, 
nisi nomine, agnoscunt; sed res cunctas ex sensuali cor- 
poreo cogitant, quibus hac ex causa interiora clausa manent, 
et simul cum illis exteriora qucB proxima interioribus sunt ! 
And with no less confidence do I believe that the positions 
above given, true or false, are contained in the Promethean 
my thus. 

In this my thus, Jove is the impersonated representation 
or symbol of the nomos — Jupiter est quodcunque vides. He 
is the mejts agitans molem, but at the same time, the molem 
corpoream ponens et constituens. And so far the Greek 
philosopheme does not differ essentially from the cosmo- 
theism, or identification of God with the universe, in which 
consisted the first apostacy of mankind after the flood, 
when they combined to raise a temple to the heavens, and 
which is still the favored religion of the Chinese. Pro- 
metheus, in like manner, is the impersonated representative 
of Idea, or of the same power as Jove, but contemplated as 
independent and not immersed in the product, — as law 
minus the productive energy. As such it is next to be 

Prometheus of ^schylus 343 

seen what the several significances of each must or may be 
according to the philosophic conception ; and of which 
significances, therefore, should we find in the philosopheme 
a correspondent to each, we shall be entitled to assert that 
such are the meanings of the fable. And first of Jove : — 

Jove represents i. Nomos generally, as opposed to Idea or 
Nous : 2. Nomos archinomos, now as the father, now as the 
sovereign, and now as the includer and representative of 
the foV*/ o-jpduot -/.oGiMiKoi, or dii majores, who, had joined or 
come over to Jove in the first schism : 3. Nomos da/M^rjTrn — 
the subjugator of the spirits, of the id's at •zpovtfj.oi^ who, thus 
subjugated, became voi^oi ■j-7:o\'6!J.tot vTroff'xovdoi, Titanes pacati, 
dii minores, that is, the elements considered as powers re- 
duced to obedience under yet higher powers than them- 
selves : 4. Nomos croX/r/xog, law in the Pauline sense, vo/iog 
d/\.XoTf>i6vo/xog in antithesis to vo/u.og avTovo/MOf. 


It is in this sense that Jove's jealous, ever-quarrelsome, 
spouse represents the political sacerdotal cultus, the church, 
in short, of republican paganism ; — a church by law estab- 
lished for the mere purposes of the particular state, un- 
ennobled by the consciousness of instrumentality to higher 
purposes ; — at once unenlightened and unchecked by 
revelation. Most gratefully ought we to acknowledge 
that since the completion of our constitution in 1688, 
we may, with unflattering truth, elucidate the spirit and 
character of such a church by the contrast of the institution, 
to which England owes the larger portion of its superiority 
in that, in which alone superiority is an unmixed blessing, 
— the diffused cultivation of its inhabitants. But pre- 
viously to this period, I shall offend no enlightened man 
if I say without distinction of parties — intra muros pec- 
catur et extra ; — that the history of Christendom presents 
us with too many illustrations of this Junonian jealousy, 
this factious harassing of the sovereign power as soon as 
the latter betrayed any symptoms of a disposition to 
its true policy, namely, to privilege and perpetuate that 
which is best, — to tolerate the tolerable, — and to restrain 
none but those who would restrain all, and subjugate even 

344 Idea of the 

the state itself. But while truth extorts this confession, 
it, at the same time, requires that it should be accompanied 
by an avowal of the fact, that the spirit is a rehc of Pagan- 
ism ; and with a bitter smile would an iEschylus or a 
Plato in the shades, listen to a Gibbon or a Hume vaunting 
the mild and tolerant spirit of the state religions of ancient 
Greece or Rome. Here we have the sense of Jove's in- 
trigues with Europa, lo, &c. whom the god, in his own 
nature a general lover, had successively taken under his 
protection. And here, too, see the full appropriateness of Ij 
this part of the mythus, in which symbol fades away into 
allegory, but yet in reference to the working cause, as 
grounded in humanity, and always existing either actually 
or potentially, and thus never ceases wholly to be a symbol 
or tautegory. 

Prometheus represents, i. sensii generali, Idea '7rp6'JO[j/)g^ 
and in this sense he is a &io; 6/a,6f i;Xog, a fellow-tribesman 
both of the dii ma j ores, with Jove at their head, and of the 
Titans or dii pacati : 2. He represents Idea (pi\miMi, 
yaiMhiUrr^g ; and in this sense the former friend and 
counsellor of Jove or ISlous uranius : 3. Aoyog ^iXdvdpctj'Troc, 
the divine humanity, the humane God, who retained 
unseen, kept back, or (in the catachresis characteristic 
of the Phoenicio-Grecian mythology) stole, a portion or 
ignicida from the living spirit of law, which remained 
with the celestial gods unexpended h r^j voiulicoai. 
He gave that which, according to the whole analogy of 
things, should have existed either as pure divinity, the 
sole property and birthright of the Dii Joviales, the 
Uranions, or was conceded to inferior beings as a suhstans 
in substantiato. This spark divine Prometheus gave to 
an elect, a favored animal, not as a suhstans or understand- 
ing, commensurate with, and confined by, the constitution 
and conditions of this particular organism, but as aliquid 
superstans, liberum, non suhactiim, invictum, iynpacatum, 
fhYi vo!^6iMiv(iv. This gift, by which we are to understand 
reason theoretical and practical, was therefore a vofiog 
ahrovoiMo- — unapproachable and unmodiiiable by the 
animal basis — that is, by the pre-existing suhstans with 
its products, the animal organismus with its faculties and 
functions ; but yet endowed with the power of potentiat- 
ing, ennobling, and prescribing to, the substance ; and 
hence, therefore, a vo/j^^g vofMOTs/dvig, lex legisuada : 4. By 

Prometheus of ^schylus 345 

a transition, ordinary even in allegory, and appropriate 
to mythic symbol, but especially significant in the present 
case — the transition, I mean, from the giver to the gift — 
the giver, in very truth, being the gift, 'whence the soul 
receives reason ; and reason is her being,' says our Milton. 
Reason is from God, and God is reason, mens ipsissima. 

5. Prometheus represents. Nous h av^pdj-Trw — voO? 
aymi6Tric. Thus contemplated, the Nous is of necessity, 
powerless ; for aU power, that is, productivity, or pro- 
ductive energy, is in Law, that is, vofMog aWorpiovoiJjog : ^ 
still, however, the Idea in the Law, the numerus numerans 
become vof/^og, is the principle of the Law ; and if with 
Law dwells power, so with the knowledge or the Idea 
scientialis of the Law, dwells prophecy and foresight. A 
perfect astronomical time-piece in relation to the motions 
of the heavenly bodies, or the magnet in the mariner's 
compass in relation to the magnetism of the earth, is a 
sufficient illustration. 

6. Both voiMog and Idea (or Nous) are the verbum ; but, 
as in the former, it is verbum fiat 'the Word of the Lord,' 
— in the latter it must be the verbum fiet or, 'the Word 
of the Lord in the mouth of the prophet.' Pari argumento, 
as the knowledge is therefore not power, the power is 
not knowledge. The ^ofj^og, the ZsD^ Travroxpdrojp, seeks 
to learn, and, as it were, to wrest the secret, the hateful 
secret, of his own fate, namely, the transitoriness adherent 
to all antithesis ; for the identity or the absolute is alone 
eternal. This secret Jove would extort from the Noiis, 
or Prometheus, which is the sixth representment of 

7. Introduce but the least of real as opposed to ideal, 
the least speck of positive existence, even though it were 
but the mote in a sunbeam, into the sciential contemplamen 
or theorem, and it ceases to be science. Ratio desinit esse 
pura ratio et fit discursus, stat subter et fU u'Trohrixov : — 
non superstat. The Nous is bound to a rock, the im- 
movable firmness of which is indissolubly connected with 
its barrenness, its non-productivity. Were it productive 
it would be Nomos ; but it is Nous, because it is not 

1 I scarcely need say, that I use the word &WoTpi6vo/xos as a participle active, as 
exercising law on another, not as rectivLng law from another, though the latter is the 
classical force (I suppose) of the word. 

346 Idea of the 

8. Solitary d/3arw iv IpniJ^ia. Now I say that the Nous, 
notwithstanding its diversity from the Nomizomeni, is 
yet, relatively to their supposed original essence, rraat 
roTg voiMiZ^oixsMoig ravroyiv^g, of the same race or radix : 
though in another sense, namely, in relation to the -rav 
h?bv — the pantheistic Elohim, it is conceived anterior 
to the schism, and to the conquest and enthronization 
of Jove who succeeded. Hence the Prometheus of the 
great tragedian is khg 6-jyyivr,g. The kindred deities 
come to him, some to soothe, to condole ; others to give 
weak, yet friendly, counsels of submission ; others to 
tempt, or insult. The most prominent of the latter, and 
the most odious to the imprisoned and insulated Nous, 
is Hermes, the impersonation of interest with the entranc- 
ing and serpentine Caduceus, and, as interest or motives 
intervening between the reason and its immediate self- 
determinations, with the antipathies to the vo/j^og avrovo^u^og. 
The Hermxcs impersonates the eloquence of cupidity, the 
cajolement of power regnant ; and in a larger sense, 
custom, the irrational in language, p^iMara ra priroptxa, the 
fluent, from pzM — the rhetorical in opposition to A070/, ra 
vorird. But, primarily, the Hermes is the symbol of 
interest. He is the messenger, the inter-nuncio, in the 
low but expressive phrase, the go-between, to beguile 
or insult. And for the other visitors of Prometheus, the 
elementary powers, or spirits of the elements, Titanes 
pacati, hoi -jriovoixioi, vassal potentates, and their solicita- 
tions, the noblest interpretation will be given, if I repeat 
the lines of our great contemporary poet : — 

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own ; 
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind. 
And e'en with something of a mother's mind, 

And no unworthy aim, 
The homely nurse doth all she can 
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man 

Forget the glories he hath known 

And that imperial palace whence he came : — 


which exquisite language is prefigured in coarser clay, 
indeed, and with a less lofty spirit, but yet excellently 
in their kind, and even more fortunately for the illustration 
and ornament of the present commentary, in the fifth, 
sixth, and seventh stanzas of Dr. Henry More's poem on 
the Pre-existence of the Soul : — 

Prometheus of ^schylus 347 

Thus groping after our own center's near 
And proper substance, we grew dark, contract, 
Swallow' d up of earthly life ! Ne what we were 
Of old, thro' ignorance can we detect. 
Like noble babe, by fate or friends' neglect 
Left to the care of sorry salvage wight. 
Grown up to manly years cannot conject 
His own true parentage, nor read aright 
What father him begot, what womb him brought to light. 

So we, as stranger infants elsewhere born. 
Cannot divine from what spring we did flow ; 
Ne dare these base alliances to scorn, 
Nor lift ourselves a whit from hence below ; 
Ne strive our parentage again to know, 
Ne dream we once of any other stock. 
Since foster' d upon Rhea's ^ knees we grow, 
In Satyrs' arms with many a mow and mock 
Oft danced ; and hairy Pan our cradle oft hath rock'd ! 

But Pan nor Rhea be our parentage ! 

We been the offspring of the all seeing Nous, &c. 

To express the supersensual character of the reason, its 
ibstraction from sensation, we find the Prometheus arsp-ryi, 
—while in the yearnings accompanied with the remorse 
ncident to, and only possible in consequence of the Nous 
Deing, the rational, self-conscious, and therefore responsible 

iVill, he is yvri diaKvato/j^syog. 

If to these contemplations we add the control and des- 
potism exercised on the free reason by Jupiter in his syrn- 
Dolical character, as v6,(/.og croX/r/xog ; — by custom (Hermes) ; 
Dy necessity, /5/a jcai xparhg ; — by the mechanic arts and 
DOwers, avyysvsTc T'jj ^ouj though they are, and which are 
;ymbolized in Hephaistos, — we shall see at once the pro- 
priety of the title, Prometheus, bia,'MU)Trig. 

9. Nature, or Zeus as the voiJ^og h i/o/x/^o/xbo/{, knows herself 
)nly, can only come to a knowledge of herself, in man I 
\nd even in man, only as man is supernatural, above nature, 
loetic. But this knowledge man refuses to communicate ; 
;hat is, the human understanding alone is at once self- 
conscious and conscious of nature. And this high pre- 
ogative it owes exclusively to its being an assessor of the 

1 Rhea (from pioiy/luo), that is, the earth as the transitory, the ever-flowing nature, 
he flux and sum oi phenomena, or objects of the outward sense, in contradistinction 
roiTi the earth as Vesta, as the firmamcntal law that sustains and disposes the apparent 
.rorld ! The Satyrs represent the sports and appetences of the sensuous nature 
<Ppbvt)y.a o-apK6s)—Pa.n, or the total life of the earth, the presence of all in each, the 
niversal organistrtus of bodies and bodily energy. 


348 Idea of the Prometheus of ^schylusji 

reason. Yet even the human understanding in its height|j| 
of place seeks vainly to appropriate the ideas of the pure:;? 
reason, which it can only represent by idola. Here, then, ; 
the Nous stands as Prometheus dvT/-TaXog,renuens — in hostileb i 
opposition to Jupiter Inquisitor. 

ID. Yet finally, against the obstacles and even under the 
fostering influences of the Nomos, roZ vo!J.ifj.ov, a son of Jove 
himself, but a descendant from lo, the mundane religion, as 
contra-distinguished from the sacerdotal cultus, or religion 
of the state, an Alcides Liberator will arise, and the Nous 
or divine principle in man, will be Prometheus iXsvhpdj/xsvog. 

Did my limits or time permit me to trace the persecu- 
tions, wanderings, and migrations of the lo, the mundane 
religion, through the whole map marked out by the tragic 
poet, the coincidences would bring the truth, the unarbit- 
rariness, of the preceding exposition as near to demonstra- 
tion as can rationally be required on a question of history, 
that must, for the greater part, be answered by combination 
of scattered facts. But this part of my subject, together 
with a particular exemplification of the light which my 
theory throws both on the sense and the beauty of numerous 
passages of this stupendous poem, I must reserve for a 
future communication. 


V. 15. (pdpccyyi : — 'in a coomb, or combe.* 
V. 17. 

i^iopid^eip yap Trarpbs \6yovs ^api. 

svupjd^siv, as the editor confesses, is a word introduced in- 
to the text against the authority of all editions and manu- 
scripts. I should prefer ggw^/a^g/t/, notwithstanding its being 
a d-TraE, Xeyo/j.evov. The iv — seems to my tact too free and easy 
a word ; — and yet our *to trifle with' appears the exact 

1 Written in Bp. Blomfield's editioD, aad communicated by Mr. Gary. £d. 


Mysteries in Greek Tragedy 349 



The Position, to tlie establishment of which Mr. Coleridge 
regards his essay as the Prolegomena, is : that the Greek 
Tragedy stood in th«^ same relation to the Mysteries, as 
the Epic Song, and the Fine Arts to the Temple Worship, 
or the Religion of the State ; that the proper function of 
the Tragic Poet was under the disguise of popular super- 
stitions, and using the popular Mythology as his stuff and 
drapery to communicate so much and no more of the 
doctrines preserved in the Mysteries as should counteract 
the demoralizing influence of the state religion, without 
disturbing the public tranquillity, or weakening the re- 
verence for the laws, or bringing into contempt the ancestral 
and local usages and traditions on which the patriotism of 
the citizens mainly rested, or that nationality in its in- 
tensest form which was little less than essential in the con- 
stitution of a Greek republic. To establish this position 
it was necessary to explain the nature of these secret 
doctrines, or at least the fundamental principles of the 
faith and philosophy of Elensis and Samothrace. The 
Samothracian M3/steries Mr. Coleridge supposes to have 
been of Phoenician origin, and both these and the Elensi- 
nian to have retained the religious belief of the more 
ancient inhabitants of the Peloponnesus, prior to their 
union with the Hellenes and the Egyptian colonies : that 
it comprised sundry relics and fragments of the Patri- 
archal Faith, the traditions historical and prophetic of the 
Noetic Family, though corrupted and depraved by their 
combination with the system of Pantheism, or the Worship 
of the Universe as God [Jupiter est quodcunque vides) which 
Mr. Coleridge contends to have been the first great Apostacy 
of the Ancient World. But a religion founded on Pan- 
theism, is of necessity a religion founded on philosophy, 
i.e. an attempt to determine the origin of nature by the 
unaided strength of the human intellect, however unsound 
and false that philosophy may have been. And of this 
the sacred books of the Indian Priests afford at once proof 
and instance. Again : the earlier the date of any philo- 

350 Mysteries in Greek Tragedy 

sophic scheme, the more subjective will it be found — in 
other words the earliest reasoners sought in their own 
minds the form, measure and substance of all other power. 
Abstracting from whatever was individual and accidental, 
from whatever distinguished one human mind from 
another, they fixed their attention exclusively on the char- 
acters which belong to all rational beings, and which there- 
fore they contemplated as mind itself, mind in its essence. 
And however averse a scholar of the present day may be to 
these first-fruits of speculative thought, as metaphysics, a 
knowledge of their contents and distinctive tenets is indis- 
pensable as history. At all events without this knov/ledge 
he will in vain attempt to understand the spirit and genius 
of the arts, institutions and governing minds of ancient 
Greece. The difficulty of comprehending any scheme of 
opinion is proportionate to its greater or lesser unlikeness 
to the principles and modes of reasoning in which our own 
minds have been formed. Where the difference is so great 
as almost to amount to contrariety, no clearness in the 
exhibition of the scheme will remove the sense, or rather, 
perhaps the sensation, of strangeness from the hearer's 
mind. Even beyond its utmost demerits it will appear 
obscure, unreal, visionary. This difficulty the author anti- 
cipates as an obstacle to the ready comprehension of the 
first principles of the eldest philosophy, and the esoteric 
doctrines of the Mysteries ; but to the necessity of over- 
coming this the only obstacle, the thoughtful inquirer must 
resign himself, as the condition under which alone he may 
expect to solve a series of problems the most interesting of 
all that the records of ancient history propose or suggest. 

The fundamental position of the Mysteries, Mr. Coleridge 
contends, consists in affirming that the productive powers 
or laws of nature are essentially the same with the active 
powers of the mind — in other words that mind, or Nous, 
under which term they combine the universal attributes of 
reason and will, is a principle of forms or patterns, endued 
with a tendency to manifest itself as such ; and that this 
mind or eternal essence exists in two modes of being. 
Namely, either the form and the productive power, which 
gives it outward and phoenomenal reality, are united in 
equal and adequate proportions, in which case it is what 
the eldest philosophers, and the moderns in imitation of 
them, call a law of nature : or the form remaining the same. 

Fragment of an Essay on Taste 351 

but with the productive power in unequal or inadequate 
proportions, whether the diminution be effected by the 
mind's own act or original determination not to put forth 
this inherent power, or whether the power have been re- 
pressed, and as it were driven inward by the violence of a 
superior force from without, — and in this case it was called 
by the most Ancient School " Intelligible Number," by a 
later School " Idea," or Mind — xar' s^oy^Tiv. To this position 
a second was added, namely, that the form could not put 
forth its productive or self -realizing power without ceasing 
at the same moment to exist for itself, — i.e. to exist, and 
know itself as existing. The formative power was as it 
were alienated from itself and absorbed in the product. It 
existed as an instinctive, essentially intelligential, but not 
self-knowing, power. It was law, Jupiter, or (when con- 
templated plurally) the Dii Majores. On the other hand, 
to possess its own being consciously, the form must remain 
single and only inwardly productive. To exist for itself, 
it must continue to exist by itself. It must be an idea ; 
but an idea in the primary sense of the term, the sense 
attached to it by the oldest Italian School and by Plato, — 
not as a synonyme of, but in contra-distinction from, 
image, conception or notion : as a true entity of all en- 
tities the most actual, of all essences the most essential. 

Now on this Antithesis of idea and law, that is of mind 
as an unproductive but self-knowing power, and of mind 
as a productive but unconscious power, the whole religion 
of pantheism as disclosed in the Mysteries turns, as on its 
axis, bi-polar. 

TASTE. 1810. 

The same arguments that decide the question, whether 
taste has any fixed principles, may probably lead to a 
determination of what those principles are. First then, 
what is taste in its metaphorical sense, or, which will be 
the easiest mode of arriving at the same solution, what 
is there in the primary sense of the word, which may give 
to its metaphorical meaning an import different from that 
of sight or hearing, on the one hand, and of touch or 

352 Fragment of an Essay on Taste 

smell on the other ? And this question seems the more 
natural, because in correct language we confine beauty, 
the main subject of taste, to objects of sight and combina- 
tions of sounds, and never, except sportively or by abuse 
'of words, speak of a beautiful flavour, or a beautiful 

Now the analysis of our senses in the commonest books 
of anthrof)ology has drawn our attention to the distinction 
between the perfectly organic, and the mixed senses ; — 
the first presenting objects, as distinct from the perception ; 
— the last as blending the perception with the sense of the 
object. Our eyes and ears — (I am not now considering 
what is or is not the case really, but only that of which we 
are regularly conscious as appearances,) our eyes most 
often appear to us perfect organs of the sentient principle, 
and wholly in action, and our hearing so much more so 
than the three other senses, and in all the ordinary exer- 
tions of that sense, perhaps, equally so with the sight, that 
all languages place them in one class, and express their 
different modifications by nearly the same metaphors. 
The three remaining senses appear in part passive, and 
combine with the perception of the outward object a 
distinct sense of our own life. Taste, therefore, as opposed 
to vision and sound, will teach us to expect in its meta- 
phorical use a certain reference of any given object to our 
own being, and not merely a distinct notion of the object 
as in itself, or in its independent properties. From the 
sense of touch, on the other hand, it is distinguishable by 
adding to this reference to our vital being some degree of 
enjoyment, or the contrary, — some perceptible impulse 
from pleasure or pain to complacency or dishke. The 
sense of smell, indeed, might perhaps have furnished a 
metaphor of the same import with that of taste ; but the 
latter was naturally chosen by the majority of civilized 
nations on account of the greater frequency, importance, 
and dignity of its employment or exertion in human nature. 

By taste, therefore, as applied to the fine arts, we must 
be supposed to mean an intellectual perception of any 
object blended with a distinct reference to our own sensi- 
bility of pain or pleasure, or, vice versa, a sense of enjoy- 
ment or dislike co-instantaneously combined with, and 
appearing to proceed from, some intellectual perception 
of the object ; — intellectual perception, I say ; for other- 

Fragment of an Essay on Taste 353 

wise it would be a definition of taste in its primary rather 
than in its metaphorical sense. Briefly, taste is a metaphor 
taken from one of our mixed senses, and applied to objects 
of the more purely organic senses, and of our moral sense, 
when we would imply the co-existence of immediate personal 
dislike or complacency. In this definition of taste, there- 
fore, is involved the definition of fine arts, namely, as 
being such the chief and discriminative purpose of which 
it is to gratify the taste, — that is, not merely to connect, 
but to combine and unite, a sense of immediate pleasure 
in ourselves, with the perception of external arrangement. 
The great question, therefore, whether taste in any one 
of the fine arts has any fixed principle or ideal, will find 
its solution in the ascertainment of two facts : — first, 
whether in every determination of the taste concerning 
any work of the fine arts, the individual does not, with 
or even against the approbation of his general judgment, 
involuntarily claim that all other minds ought to think 
and feel the same ; whether the common expressions, *I 
dare say I may be wrong, but that is my particular taste ;' 
— are uttered as an oft'ering of courtesy, as a sacrifice to 
the undoubted fact of our individual fallibility, or are 
spoken with perfect sincerity, not only of the reason but 
of the whole feeling, with the same entireness of mind and 
heart, with which we concede a right to every person to 
differ from another in his preference of bodily tastes and 
flavours. If we should find ourselves compelled to deny 
this, and to admit that, notwithstanding the consciousness 
of our liability to error, and in spite of all those many 
individual experiences which may have strengthened the 
consciousness, each man does at the moment so far legislate 
for aU men, as to believe of necessity that he is either right 
or wrong, and that if it be right for him, it is universally 
right, — we must then proceed to ascertain : — secondly, 
whether the source of these phenomena is at all to be 
found in those parts of our nature, in which each intellect 
is representative of all, — and whether wholly, or partially. 
No person of common reflection demands even in feeling, 
that what tastes pleasant to him ought to produce the 
same effect on all living beings ; but every man does and 
must expect and demand the universal acquiescence of all 
intelligent beings in every conviction of his understanding. 
* ♦ * ♦ ♦ 

354 Fragment of an Essay on Beauty 

BEAUTY. 1818. 

The only necessary, but this the absolutely necessary, 
pre-requisite to a full insight into the grounds of the 
beauty in the objects of sight, is — the directing of the 
attention to the action of those thoughts in our own mind 
which are not consciously distinguished. Every man 
may understand this, if he will but recall the state of his 
feelings in endeavouring to recollect a name, which he is 
quite sure that he remembers, though he cannot force 
it back into consciousness. This region of unconscious 
thoughts, oftentimes the more working the more indistinct 
they are, may, in reference to this subject, be conceived 
as forming an ascending scale from the most universal 
associations of motion with the functions and passions of 
hfe, — as when, on passing out of a crowded city into the 
fields on a day in June, we describe the grass and king- 
cups as nodding their heads and dancing in the breeze, — 
up to the half perceived, yet not fixable, resemblance of 
a form to some particular object of a diverse class, which 
resemblance we need only increase but a little, to destroy, 
or at least injure, its beauty-enhancing effect, and to make 
it a fantastic intrusion of the accidental and the arbitrary, 
and consequently a disturbance of the beautiful. This 
might be abundantly exemplified and illustrated from the 
paintings of Salvator Rosa. 

I am now using the term beauty in its most comprehen- 
sive sense, as including expression and artistic interest, — 
that is, I consider not only the living balance, but likewise 
all the accompaniments that even by disturbing are neces- 
sary to the renewal and continuance of the balance. And 
in this sense I proceed to show, that the beautiful in the 
object may be referred to two elements, — lines and colours ; 
the first belonging to the shapely [forma, formalis, for- 
mosus), and in this, to the law, and the reason ; and the 
second, to the lively, the free, the spontaneous, and the 
self-justifying. As to lines, the rectilineal are in themselves 
the lifeless, the determined ab extra, but still in immediate 
union with the cycloidal. which are expressive of function. 
The curve line is a modification of the force from without 

Fragment of an Essay on Beauty 355 

by the force from within, or the spontaneous. These 
are not arbitrary symbols, but the language of nature, 
universal and intuitive, by virtue of the law by which man 
is impelled to explain visible motions by imaginary causa- 
tive powers analogous to his own acts, as the Dryads, 
Hamadryads, Naiads, &c. 

The better way of applying these principles will be by a 
brief and rapid sketch of the history of the fine arts, — in 
which it will be found, that the beautiful in nature has been 
appropriated to the works of man, just in proportion as the 
state of the mind in the artists themselves approached to 
the subjective beauty. Determine what predominance in 
the minds of the men is preventive of the living balance of 
excited faculties, and you will discover the exact counter- 
part in the outward products. Egypt is an illustration 
of this. Shapeliness is intellect without freedom ; but 
colours are significant. The introduction of the arch is not 
less an epoch in the fine than in the useful arts. 

Order is beautiful arrangement without any purpose ad 
extra ; — therefore there is a beauty of order, or order may 
be contemplated exclusively as beauty. 

The form given in every empirical intuition, — the stuff, 
that is, the quality of the stuff, determines the agreeable : 
but when a thing excites us to receive it in such and such a 
mould, so that its exact correspondence to that mould is 
what occupies the mind, — this is taste or the sense of beauty. 
WTiether dishes full of painted wood or exquisite viands 
were laid out on a table in the same arrangement, would be 
indifferent to the taste, as in ladies patterns ; but surely the 
one is far more agreeable than the other. Hence observe 
the disinterestedness of all taste ; and hence also a sensual 
perfection with intellect is occasionally possible without 
moral feeling. So it may be in music and painting, but 
not in poetry. How far it is a real preference of the refined 
to the gross pleasures, is another question, upon the sup- 
position that pleasure, in some form or other, is that alone 
which determines men to the objects of the former ; — 
whether experience does not show that if the latter were 
equally in our power, occasioned no more trouble to enjoy, 
and caused no more exhaustion of the power of enjoying 
them by the enjoyment itself, we should in real practice 
prefer the grosser pleasure. It is not, therefore, any ex- 
cellence in the quality of the refined pleasures themselves. 

356 Notes on Chapman's Homer 

but the advantages and facilities in the means of enjoying 
them, that give them the pre-eminence. 

This is, of course, on the supposition of the absence of 
all moral feeling. Suppose its presence, and then there 
w'ill accrue an excellence even to the quality of the pleasures 
themselves ; not only, however, of the refined, but also of 
the grosser kinds, — inasmuch as a larger sweep of thoughts 
will be associated with each enjoyment, and with each 
thought will be associated a number of sensations ; and 
so, consequently, each pleasure will become more the 
pleasure of the whole being. This is one of the earthly 
rewards of our being what we ought to be, but which would 
be annihilated, if we attempted to be it for the sake of this 
increased enjoyment. Indeed it is a contradiction to 
suppose it. Yet this is the common argumentum in circitlo, 
in which the eudaemonists flee and pursue. 

Extract of a Letter sent with the Volume} 1807. 

Chapman I have sent in order that you might read the 
Odyssey ; the Iliad is fine, but less equal in the translation, 
as weU as less interesting in itself. What is stupidly said 
of Shakspeare, is really true and appropriate of Chapman ; 
mighty faults counterpoised by mighty beauties. Except- 
ing his quaint epithets which he affects to render literally 
from the Greek, a language above all others blest in the 
" happy marriage of sweet words," and which in our lan- 
guage are mere printer's compound epithets — such as 
quaffed divine ]oy-in-the-heart-of -man-infusing wine, (the 
undermarked is to be one word, because one sweet meUi- 
fiuous word expresses it in Homer) ; — excepting this, it 
has no look, no air, of a translation. It is as truly an 
original poem as the Faery Queene ; — it will give you 
smaU idea of Homer, though a far truer one than Pope's 
epigrams, or Cowper's cumbersome most anti-Homeric 
Miltonism. For Chapman writes and feels as a poet, — as 
Homer might have written had he Uved in England in the 
reign of Queen Elizabeth. In short, it is an exquisite poem, 
in spite of its frequent and perverse quaintnesses and harsh- 

1 Coaununicated through Mr. Wordsworth. £d. 

Notes on Chapman's Homer 357 

nesses, which are, however, amply repaid by aknost un- 
exampled sweetness and beauty of language, all over spirit 
and feeling. In the main it is an English heroic poem, the 
tale of which is borrowed from the Greek. The dedication 
to the Iliad is a noble copy of verses, especially those 
sublime lines beginning, — 

O ! 'tis wondrous much 
(Through nothing prisde) that the right vertuous touch 
Of a well written soule, to vertue moves. 
Nor haue we soules to purpose, if their loves 
Of fitting objects be not so inflam'd. 

How much then, were this kingdome's maine soul maim'd. 
To want this great infiamer of all powers 
That move in humane soules ! All realmes but yours, 
Are honor' d with him ; and hold blest that state 
That have his workes to reade and contemplate. 
In which, humanitie to her height is raisde ; 
Which all the world (yet, none enough) hath praisde. 
Seas, earth, and heaven, he did in verse comprize ; 
Out sung the Muses, and did equalise 
Their king Apollo ; being so farre from cause 
Of princes light thoughts, that their gravest lawes 
May finde stuffe to be fashioned by his lines. 
Through all the pompe of kingdomes still he shines 
And graceth all his gracers. Then let lie 
Your lutes, and viols, and more loftily 
Make the heroiques of your Homer sung, 
To drums and trumpets set his Angels tongue : 
And with the princely sports of haukes you use. 
Behold the kingly flight of his high Muse : 
And see how like the Phoenix she renues 
Her age, and starrie feathers in your sunne ; 
Thousands of yeares attending ; everie one 
Blowing the holy fire, and throwing in 
Their seasons, kingdomes, nations that have bin 
Subverted in them ; lawes, religions, all 
Ofierd to change, and greedie funerall ; 
Yet still your Homer lasting, living, raigning. — 

and likewise the ist, the nth, and last but one, of the pre- 
fatory sonnets to the Odyssey. Could I have foreseen any 
other speedy opportunity, I should have begged your 
acceptance of the volume in a somewhat handsomer coat ; 
but as it is, it will better represent the sender, — to quote 
from myself — 

A man disherited, in form and face. 

By nature and mishap, of outward grace. 

Chapman in his moral heroic verse, as in this dedication 
and the prefatory sonnets to his Odyssey, stands above 

358 Notes on Chapman's Homer 

Ben Jonson ; there is more dignity, more lustre, and equal 
Dedication Strength ; but not midway quite between him and 
toVrince°" the sonnets of Milton. I do not know whether I 
Henry. gj^.^ ]-^jj^ ^^le higher praise, in that he reminds me 
of Ben Jonson with a sense of his superior excellence, or 
that he brings Milton to memory notwithstanding his in- 
feriority. His moral poems are not quite out of books like 
Jonson's, nor yet do the sentiments so wholly grow up out 
of his own natural habit and grandeur of thought, as in 
Milton. The sentiments have been attracted to him by a 
natural afl&nity of his intellect, and so combined ; — but 
Jonson has taken them by individual and successive acts 
of choice. 

All this and the precedmg is well felt and vigorously, 

though harshly, expressed, respecting sublime poetry in 

genere ; but in reading Homer I look about me, 

D?Scatorie ^ud ask how does all this apply here. For surely 

Od ^^-^e • never was there plainer writing , there are a 

^^^^^' thousand charms of sun and moonbeam, ripple, 
and wave, and stormy billow, but all on the surface. Had 
Chapman read Proclus and Porphjnry ? — and did he really 
believe them, — or even that they believed themselves ? 
They felt the immense power of a Bible, a Shaster, a Koran. 
There was none in Greece or Rome, and they tried therefore 
by subtle allegorical accommodations to conjure the poem 
of Homer into the /SZ/SX/ov hoTapddorov of Greek faith. 

Chapman's identification of his fate with Homer's, and 
his complete forgetfulness of the distinction between Chris- 
tianity and idolatry, under the general feeling of 
DedStorie ^omc rcligiou, is very interesting. It is amusing 
to the to observe, how familiar Chapman's fancy has be- 

omachia°"'^" comc with Homcr, his life and its circumstances, 
though the very existence of any such individupJ, 
at least with regard to the Iliad and the Hymns, is more 
than problematic. N.B. The rude engraving in the page 
was designed by no vulgar hand. It is full of spirit and 

I am so dull, that neither in the original nor in any 
translation could I ever find any wit or wise purpose in 
^ , r ^ this poem. The whole humour seems to lie in the 

End of the t^i i- i • j. x 

Batrachomy- uamcs. Thc frogs aud mice are not frogs or mice, 
omachia. ^^^ mcu, and yet they do nothing that conveys 
any satire. In the Greek there is much beauty of language, 

Notes on Barclay's Argenis 359 

but the joke is very flat. This is always the catse in rude 
ages ; — their serious vein is inimitable, — their comic low 
and low indeed. The psychological cause is easily stated, 
and copiously exemplifiable. 


There are six hundred and sixteen pages in this volume, 
of which twenty-two are text ; and five hundred and 
ninety-four commentary and introductory matter. Yet 
when I recollect, that I have the whole works of Cicero, 
Livy, and Ouinctilian, with many others, — the whole 
works of each in a single volume, either thick quarto with 
thin paper and small yet distinct print, or thick octavo or 
duodecimo of the same character, and that they cost me 
in the proportion of a shilling to a guinea for the same 
quantity of worse matter in modern books, or editions, — 
I am a poor man, yet one whom (SiS/Jojv xT'/iszc^g Ik 
'TTuidccpiov diivog s^pdryjas -Trodog, feel the liveliest gratitude 
for the age, which produced such editions, and for the 
education, which by enabling me to understand and taste 
the Greek and Latin writers, has thus put it in my power 
to collect on my own shelves, for my actual use, almost all 
the best books in spite of my small income. Somewhat 
too I am indebted to the ostentation of expense among 
the rich, which has occasioned these cheap editions to 
become so disproportionately cheap. 



Heaven forbid that this work should not exist in its 
present form and language ! Yet I cannot avoid the wish 
that it had, during the reign of James I., been moulded 
into an heroic poem in English octave stanza, or epic 
blank verse ; — which, however, at that time had not been 
invented, and which, alas ! still remains the sole property 
of the inventor, as if the Muses had given him an unevad- 
able patent for it. Of dramatic blank verse we have many 

1 Communicaujd by the Rev. Dcrwent Coleridge. 

360 Notes on Barclay's Argenis 

and various specimens ; — for example, Shakspeare's as 
compared with Massinger's, both excellent in their kind : — 
of lyric, and of what may be called Orphic, or philosophic, 
blank verse, perfect models may be found in Wordsworth : 
of colloquial blank verse there are excellent, though not 
perfect, examples in Cowper ; — but of epic blank verse, 
since Milton, there is not one. 

It absolutely distresses me when I reflect that this work, 
admired as it has been by great men of all ages, and lately, 
I hear, by the poet Cowper, should be only not unknown 
to general readers. It has been translated into English 
two or three times — how, I know not, wretchedly, I doubt 
not. It affords matter for thought that the last transla- 
tion (or rather, in all probability, miserable and faithless 
abridgment of some former one) was given under another 
name. What a mournful proof of the incelebrity of this 
great and amazing work among both thepubhc and the 
people ! For as Wordsworth, the greater of the two great 
men of this age, — (at least, except Davy and him, I have 
known, read of, heard of, no others) — for as Wordsworth 
did me the honour of once observing to me, the people 
and the public are two distinct claisses, and, as things go, 
the former is Hkely to retain a better taste, the less it is 
acted on by the latter. Yet Telemachus is in every 
mouth, in every schoolboy's and schoolgirl's hand ! It 
is awful to say of a work, like the Argenis, the style 
and Latinity of which, judged (not according to classical 
pedantry, which pronounces every sentence right which 
can be found in any book prior to Boetius, however 
vicious the age, or affected the author, and every 
sentence wrong, however natural and beautiful, which 
has been of the author's own combination, — but) 
according to the universal logic of thought as modified 
by feeling, is equal to that of Tacitus in energy and 
genuine conciseness, and is as perspicuous as that of 
Livy, whilst it is free from the affectations, obscurities, 
and lust to surprise of the former, and seems a sort of 
antithesis to the slowness and prolixity of the latter ; — 
(this remark does not, however, impeach even the classi- 
cality of the language, which, when the freedom and 
originality, the easy motion and perfect command of the 
thoughts, are considered, is truly wonderful) : — of such 
a work it is awful to say, that it would have been well if 

Bishop Corbet 361 

it had been written in English or Italian verse ! Yet the 
event seems to justify the notion. Alas ! it is now too 
late. What modern work, even of the size of the Paradise 
Lost — much less of the Faery Queene — would be read 
in the present day, or even bought or be likely to be bought, 
unless it were an instructive work, as the phrase is, like 
Roscoe's quartos of Leo X., or entertaining like Boswell's 
three of Dr. Johnson's conversations ? It may be fairly 
objected — what work of surpassing merit has given the 
proof ? — Certainly, none. Yet still there are ominous 
facts, sufficient, I fear, to afford a certain prophecy of its 
reception, if such were produced. 


The justice of these remarks cannot be disputed, though some oi 
them are too figurative for sober criticism. 

Most genuine ! a figurative remark ! If this strange 
writer had any meaning, it must be : — Headly's criticism 
is just throughout, but conveyed in a style too figurative 
for prose composition. Chalmers's own remarks are 
wholly mistaken ; too silly for any criticism, drunk or 
sober, and in language too flat for any thing. In Daniel's 
Sonnets there is scarcely one good line ; while his Hymen's 
Triumph, of which Chalmers says not one word, exhibits 
a continued series of first-rate beauties in thought, passion, 
and imagery, and in language and metre is so faultless, 
that the style of that poem may without extravagance 
be declared to be imperishable English. 1820. 


I ALMOST wonder that the inimitable humour, and the rich 
sound and propulsive movement of the verse, have not 
rendered Corbet a popular poet. I am convinced that a 
reprint of his poems, with illustrative and chit-chat bio- 
graphical notes, and cuts by Cruikshank, would take with 
the pubhc uncommonly weU. September, 1823. 

362 Notes on Selden's Table Talk 


There is more weighty bullion sense in this book, than 
I ever found in the same number of pages of any uninspired 


Opinion and affection extremely differ. I may affect a woman 
best, but it does not follow I must think her the handsomest woman 
in the world. * * * Opinion is something wherein I go about 
to give reason why all the world should think as I think Affection 
is a thing wherein I look after the pleasing of myself. 

Good ! This is the true difference betwixt the beautiful 
and the agreeable, which Knight and the rest of that 
'TrXr^dog akov have SO beneficially confounded, meretricibus 
scilicet et Pliitoni. 

O what an insight the whole of this article gives into 
a wise man's heart, who has been compelled to act with 
the many, as one of the many ! It explains Sir Thomas 
More's zealous Romanism, &c. 


Excellent ! O ! to have been with Selden over his glass 
of wine, making every accident an outlet and a vehicle 
of wisdom ! 


The old poets had no other reason but this, their verse was sung 
to music ; otherwise it had been a senseless thing to have fettered 
up themselves. 

No man can know all things : even Selden here talks 
ignorantly. Verse is in itself a music, and the natural 
symbol of that union of passion with thought and pleasure, 
which constitutes the essence of all poetry, as contra- 
distinguished from science, and distinguished from history 
civil or natural. To Pope's Essay on Man, — in short, to 
whatever is mere metrical good sense and wit, the remark 


Verse proves nothing but the quantity of syllables ; they axe 
oot meant for logic. 

1 These remarks on Selden were communicated by Mr. Ciry. Ed. 

Notes on Tom Jones 363 

True ; they, that is, verses, are not logic ; but they 
are, or ought to be, the envoys and representatives of 
that vital passion, which is the practical cement of logic ; 
and without which logic must remain inert. 


Manners change from generation to generation, and with 
manners morals appear to change, — actually change with 
some, but appear to change with all but the abandoned. 
A young man of the present day who should act as Tom 
Jones is supposed to act at Upton, with Lady Bellaston, 
&c. would not be a Tom Jones ; and a Tom Jones of the 
present day, without perhaps being in the ground a better 
man, would have perished rather than submit to be kept 
by a harridan of fortune. Therefore this novel is, and, 
indeed, pretends to be, no exemplar of conduct. But, not- 
withstanding all this, I do loathe the cant which can 
recommend Pamela and Clarissa Harlowe as strictly moral, 
though they poison the imagination of the young with con- 
tinued doses of tinct. lyttcB, while Tom Jones is prohibited as 
loose. I do not speak of young women ; — but a young man 
whose heart or feelings can be injured, or even his passions 
excited, by aught in this novel, is already thoroughly 
corrupt. There is a cheerful, sun-shiny, breezy spirit that 
prevails everywhere, strongly contrasted with the close, 
hot, day-dreamy continuity of Richardson. Every indis- 
cretion, every immoral act, of Tom Jones, (and it must be 
remembered that he is in every one taken by surprise — his 
inward principles remaining firm — ) is so instantly punished 
by embarrassment and unanticipated evil consequences of 
his folly, that the reader's mind is not left for a moment to 
dwell or run riot on the criminal indulgence itself. In 
short, let the requisite allowance be made for the increased 
refinement of our manners, — and then I dare believe that 
no young man who consulted his heart and conscience only, 
without adverting to what the world would say — could 
rise from the perusal of Fielding's Tom Jones, Joseph 
Andrews, or Amelia, without feeling himself a better man ; 
— at least, without an intense conviction that he could not 
be guilty of a base act. 

1 Communicated by Mr. Gillman. Ed. 

364 Notes on Tom Jones 

If I want a servant or mechanic, I wish to know what he 
does : — but of a friend, I must know what he is. And in 
no writer is this momentous distinction so finely brought 
forward as by Fielding. We do not care what Blifil does ; — 
the deed, as separate from the agent, may be good or ill ; 
but Blifil is a villain ; — and we feel him to be so from the 
very moment he, the boy Blifil, restores Sophia's poor 
captive bird to its native and rightful liberty. 

Book xiv. ch. 8. 

Notwithstanding the sentiment of the Roman satirist, which 
denies the divinity of fortune ; and the opinion of Seneca to the 
same purpose ; Cicero, who was, I believe, a wiser man than either 
of them, expressly holds the contrary ; and certain it is there are 
some incidents in life so very strange and unaccountable, that it 
seems to require more than human skill and foresight in producing 

Surely Juvenal, Seneca, and Cicero, all meant the same 
thing, namely, that there was no chance, but instead of it 
providence, either human or divine. 

Book XV. ch. 9. 

The rupture with Lady Bellaston, 

Even in the most questionable part of Tom Jones, I 
cannot but think, after frequent reflection, that an addi- 
tional paragraph, more fully and forcibly unfolding Tom 
Jones's sense of self-degradation on the discovery of the 
true character of the relation in which he had stood to Lady 
Bellaston, and his awakened feeling of the dignity of manly 
chastity, would have removed in great measure any just 
objections, — at all events relatively to Fielding himself, 
and with regard to the state of manners in his time. 

Book xvi. ch. 5. 

That refined degree of Platonic affection which is absolutely 
detached from the flesh, and is indeed entirely and purely spiritual, 
is a gift confined to the female part of the creation ; many of whom 
I have heard declare (and doubtless with great truth) that they 
would, with the utmost readiness, resign a lover to a rival, when 
such resignation was proved to be necessary for the temporal 
interest of such lover. 

I firmly believe that there are men capable of such a 
sacrifice, and this, without pretending to, or even admiring 
or seeing any virtue in, this absolute detachment from the 

Notes on Tom Jones 365 

Book i. ch. 4. 

** Beyond this the country gradually rose into a ridge of wild 
mountains, the tops of which were above the clouds." 

As this is laid in Somersetshire, the clouds must have 
been unusually low. One would be more apt to think of 
Skiddaw or Ben Nevis, than of Quantock or Mendip Hills. 
Book xi. ch. I. 

" Nor can the Devil receive a guest more worthy of him, nor 
possibly more welcome to him than a slanderer." 

The very word Devil, Diabolus, means a slanderer. 
Book xii. ch. 12. 

" And here we will make a concession, which would not perhaps 
have been expected from us ; That no limited form of government 
is capable of rising to the same degree of perfection, or of pro- 
ducing the same benefits to society with this. Mankind has never 
been so happy, as when the greatest part of the then known world 
was under the dominion of a single master ; and this state of their 
felicity continued under the reign of five successive Princes." 

Strange that such a lover of political hberty as Fielding 
should have forgotten that the glaring infamy of the Roman 
morals and manners immediately on the ascent of Corn- 
modus prove, that even five excellent despots in suc- 
cession were but a mere temporary palliative of the evils 
inherent in despotism and its causes. Think you that all 
the sub-despots were Trojans and Antonines ? No ! 
Rome was left as it was found by them, incapable of 

Book xviii. ch. 4. 

Plato himself concludes his Phaedon with declaring, that his best 
argument amounts only to raise a probability ; and Cicero himself 
seems rather to profess an inclination to believe, than any actual 
belief, in the doctrines of immortality. 

No ! Plato does not say so, but speaks as a philosophic 
Christian would do of the best arguments of the scientific 
intellect. The assurance is derived from a higher principle. 
If this be Methodism Plato and Socrates were arrant 

366 Jonathan Wild 

Methodists and New Light men ; but I would ask Fielding 
what ratiocinations do more than raise a high degree of 
probability. But assuredly an historic belief is far different 
from Christian faith. 

No greater proof can be conceived of the strength of the 
instinctive anticipation of a future state than that it was 
believed at all by the Greek Philosophers, with their vague 
and (Plato excepted) Pantheistic conception of the First 
Cause. S. T. C. 


Jonathan Wild is assuredly the best of all the fictions in 
which a villain is throughout the prominent character. 
But how impossible it is by any force of genius to create a 
sustained attractive interest for such a ground-work, and 
how the mind wearies of, and shrinks from, the more than 
painful interest, the //,/<r?jrof, of utter depravity, — Fielding 
himself felt and endeavoured to mitigate and remedy by 
the (on all other principles) far too large a proportion, and 
too quick recurrence, of the interposed chapters of moral 
reflection, like the chorus in the Greek tragedy, — admirable 
specimens as these chapters are of profound irony and 
philosophic satire. Chap. VI. Book 2, on Hats,^ — brief as 
it is, exceeds any thing even in Swift's Lilliput, or Tale of 
the Tub. How forcibly it applies to the WTiigs, Tories, 
and Radicals of our own times. 

Whether the transposition of Fielding's scorching wit 
(as B. HI. c. xiv.) to the mouth of his hero be objectionable 
on the ground of increduhcs odi, or is to be admired as 
answering the author's purpose by unrealizing the story, 
in order to give a deeper reality to the truths intended, — I 
must leave doubtful, yet myself inclining to the latter 
judgment. 27th Feb. 1832 

1 Communicated by Mr. Gillman. Ed. 

2 ' In which our hero makes a speech well worthy to be celebrated ; and the behaviour 
ctf one of the gang, perhaps more unnatural than any other part of this history.' 

Notes on Junius 367 

Stat nominis umbra. 

As he never dropped the mask, so he too often used the 
poisoned dagger of an assassin. 

Dedication to the English nation. 

The whole of this dedication reads hke a string of aphor- 
isms arranged in chapters, and classified by a resemblance 
of subject, or a cento of points. 

lb. If an honest, and I may truly affirm a laborious, zeal for the 
public service has given me any weight in your esteem, let me 
exhort and conjure you never to suffer an invasion of your political 
constitution, however minute the instance may appear, to pass by, 
without a determined persevering resistance. 

A longer sentence and proportionately inelegant. 

lb. If you reflect that in the changes of administration which 
have marked and disgraced the present reign, although your 
warmest patriots have, in their turn, been invested with the law- 
ful and unlawful authority of the crown, and though other reliefs 
or improvements have been held forth to the people, yet that no 
one man in office has ever promoted or encouraged a bill for shorten- 
ing the duration of parliaments, but that (whoever was minister) 
the opposition to this measure, ever since the septennial act passed, 
has been constant and uniform on the part of government. 

Long, and as usual, inelegant. Junius cannot manage a 
long sentence ; it has all the ins and outs of a snappish 


An excellent preface, and the sentences not so snipt as in 
the dedication. The paragraph near the conclusion begin- 
ning with " some opinion may now be expected," &c. and 
ending with " relation between guilt and punishment," 
deserves to be quoted as a master-piece of rhetorical ratio- 
cination in a series of questions that permit no answer ; or 
(as Junius says) carry their own answer along with them. 
The great art of Junius is never to say too much, and to 
avoid with equal anxiety a common-place manner, and 
matter that is not common-place. If ever he deviates into 
any originality of thought, he takes care that it shall be 
such as excites surprise for its acuteness, rather than admira- 

368 Notes on Junius 

tion for its profundity. He takes care ? say rather that 
nature took care for him. It is impossible to detract from 
the merit of these Letters : they are suited to their purpose, 
and perfect in their kind. They impel to action, not 
thought. Had they been profound or subtle in thought, 
or majestic and sweeping in composition, they would have 
been adapted for the closet of a Sydney, or for a House 
of Lords such as it was in the time of Lord Bacon ; but 
they are plain and sensible whenever the author is in the 
right, and whether right or wrong, always shrewd and 
epigrammatic, and fitted for the coffee-house, the exchange, 
the lobby of the House of Commons, and to be read aloud 
at a public meeting. When connected, dropping the forms 
of connexion, desultory without abruptness or appearance 
of disconnexion, epigrammatic and antithetical to excess, 
sententious and personal, regardless of right or wrong, yet 
well-skilled to act the part of an honest warm-hearted man, 
and even when he is in the right, saying the truth but never 
proving it, much less attempting to bottom it, — this is the 
character of Junius ; — and on this character, and in the 
mould of these writings must every man cast himself, who 
would wish in factious times to be the important and long 
remembered agent of a faction. I believe that I could do 
all that Junius has done, and surpass him by doing many 
things which he has not done : for example, — by an 
occasional induction of starthng facts, in the manner of 
Tom Paine, and lively illustrations and witty applications 
of good stories and appropriate anecdotes in the manner of 
Home Tooke. I believe I could do it if it were in my 
nature to aim at this sort of excellence, or to be enamoured 
of the fame, and immediate influence, which would be its 
consequence and reward. But it is not in my nature. I 
not only love truth, but I have a passion for the legitimate 
investigation of truth. The love of truth conjoined with a 
keen delight in a strict and skilful yet impassioned argu- 
mentation, is my master-passion, and to it are subordinated 
even the love of liberty and all my public feelings — and to 
it whatever I labour under of vanity, ambition, and all my 
inward impulses. 

Letter L From this Letter all the faults and excel- 
lencies of Junius may be exemplified. The moral and 
pohtical aphorisms are just and sensible, the irony in which 
his personal satire is conveyed is fine, yet always intellig- 

Notes on Junius 369 

ible ; but it approaches too nearly to the nature of a sneer ; 
the sentences are cautiously constructed without the forms 
of connection ; the he and it every where substituted for 
the who and which ; the sentences are short, laboriously 
balanced, and the antitheses stand the test of analysis much 
better than Johnson's. These are all excellencies in their 
kind ; — where is the defect ? In this ; — there is too much 
of each, and there is a defect of many things, the presence 
of which would have been not only valuable for their own 
sakes, but for the relief and variety which they would have 
given. It is observable too that every Letter adds to the 
faults of these Letters, while it weakens the effect of their 

L. III. A capital letter, addressed to a private person, 
and intended as a sharp reproof for intrusion. Its short 
sentences, its witty perversions and deductions, its ques- 
tions and omissions of connectives, all in their proper places 
are dramatically good. 

L. V. For my own part, I willingly leave it to the public to 
determine whether your vindication of your friend has been as able 
and judicious as it was certainly well intended ; and you, I think, 
may be satisfied with the warm acknowledgments he already owes 
you for making him the principal figure in a piece in which, but for 
your amicable assistance, he might have passed without particular 
notice or distinction. 

A long sentence and, as usual, inelegant and cumbrous. 
This Letter is a faultless composition with exception of the 
one long sentence. 

I,. VII. These are the gloomy companions of a disturbed 
imagination ; the melancholy madness of poetry, without the 

The rhyme is a fault. 'Fancy' had been better ; though 
but for the rhyme, imagination is the fitter word. 

lb. Such a question might perhaps discompose the gravity of 
his muscles, but I believe it would little atiect the tranquillity of his 

A false antithesis, a mere verbal balance ; there are far, 
far too many of these. However, with these few exceptions, 
this Letter is a blameless composition. Junius may be 
safely studied as a model for letters where he truly writes 
letters. Those to the Duke of Grafton and others, are 
smaU pamphlets in the form of letters. 

370 Notes on Junius 

L. VIII. To do justice to your Grace's humanity, you felt for 
Mac Quick as you ought to do ; and, if you had been contented to 
assist him indirectly, without a notorious denial of justice, or openly 
insulting the sense of the nation, you might have satisfied every 
duty of political friendship, without committing the honour of your 
sovereign, or hazarding the reputation of his government. 

An inelegant cluster of withouts. Junius asks questions 
incomparably well ; — but ne quid nimis. 

L. IX. Perhaps the fair way of considering these 
Letters would be as a kind of satirical poems ; the short, 
and for ever balanced, sentences constitute a true metre ; 
and the connexion is that of satiric poetry, a witty logic, an 
association of thoughts by amusing semblances of cause 
and effect, the sophistry of which the reader has an interest 
in not stopping to detect, for it flatters his love of mischief, 
and makes the sport. 

L. XII. One of Junius's arts, and which gives me a high 
notion of his genius, as a poet and satirist, is this : — ^he 
takes for granted the existence of a character that never did 
and never can exist, and then employs his wit, and sur- 
prises and amuses his readers with analyzing its incom- 

L. XIV. Continual sneer, continual irony, aU excellent, 
if it were not for the 'all' ; — but a countenance, with a 
malignant smile in statuary fixure on it, becomes at length 
an object of aversion, however beautiful the face, and how- 
ever beautiful the smile. We are relieved, in some measure, 
from this by frequent just and well expressed moral aphor- 
isms ; but then the preceding and following irony gives 
them the appearance of proceeding from the head, not from 
the heart. This objection would be less felt, when the 
Letters were first published at considerable intervals ; but 
Junius wrote for posterity. 

L. XXIII. Sneer and irony continued with such gross 
violation of good sense, as to be perfectly nonsense. The 
man who can address another on his most detestable vices 
in a strain of cold continual irony, is himself a wretch. 

L. XXXV. To honour them with a determined predilection 
and confidence in exclusion of your English subjects, who placed 
your family, and, in spite of treachery and rebellion, have supported 
it upon the throne, is a mistake too gross even for the unsuspecting 
generosity of youth. 

The words 'upon the throne,' stand unfortunately for 

Wonderfulness of Prose 371 

the harmonious effect of the balance of 'placed* and 
'supported. ' 

This address to the king is almost faultless in composi- 
tion, and has been evidently tormented with the file. But 
it has fewer beauties than any other long letter of Junius ; 
and it is utterly undramatic. There is nothing in the style, 
the transitions, or the sentiments, which represents the 
passions of a man emboldening himself to address his 
sovereign personally. Like a Presbyterian's prayer, you 
may substitute almost every where the third for the second 
I person without injury. The newspaper, his closet, and 
his own person were alone present to the author's intention 
and imagination. This makes the composition vapid. It 
possesses an Isocratic correctness, when it should have had 
the force and drama of an oration of Demosthenes. From 
this, however, the paragraph beginning with the words 'As 
to the Scotch,' and also the last two paragraphs must be 
honourably excepted. They are, perhaps, the finest 
passages in the whole collection. 


It has just struck my feelings that the Pherecydean origin 
of prose being granted, prose must have struck men with 
greater admiration than poetry. In the latter it was the 
language of passion and emotion : it is what they them- 
selves spoke and heard in moments of exultation, indigna- 
tion, &c. But to hear an evolving roll, or a succession 
of leaves, talk continually the language of deliberate 
reason in a form of continued preconception, of a Z already 
possessed when A was being uttered, — this must have 
appeared godlike. I feel myself in the same state, when 
in the perusal of a sober, yet elevated and harmonious 
succession of sentences and periods, I abstract my mind 
from the particular passage and sympathize with the 
wonder of the common people, who say of an eloquent 
man : — 'He talks like a book ! ' 

372 Notes on Herbert's Temple 


G. Herbert is a true poet, but a poet sui generis, the 
merits of whose poems will never be felt wdthout a sym- 
pathy with the mind and character of the man. To 
appreciate this volume, it is not enough that the reader 
possesses a cultivated judgment, classical taste, or even 
poetic sensibility, unless he be likewise a Christian, and 
both a zealous and an orthodox, both a devout and a 
devotional Christian. But even this will not quite suffice. 
He must be an affectionate and dutiful child of the Church, 
and from habit, conviction, and a constitutional pre- 
disposition to ceremoniousness, in piety as in manners, 
find her forms and ordinances aids of religion, not sources 
of formality ; for religion is the element in which he lives, 
and the region in which he moves. 

The Church, say rather the Churchmen of England, under 
the two first Stuarts, has been charged with a yearning 
after the Romish fopperies, and even the papistic usurpa- 
tions ; but we shall decide more correctly, as well as more 
charitably, if for the Romish and papistic we substitute 
the patristic leaven. There even was (natural enough 
from their distinguished learning, and knowledge of ecclesi- 
astical antiquities) an overrating of the Church and of the 
Fathers, for the first five or even six centuries ; these lines 
on the Egyptian monks, " Holy Macarius and great 
Anthony " (p. 205) supply a striking instance and illustra- 
tion of this. 

P. 10. 

If thou be single, all thy goods and ground 
Submit to love ; but yet not more than all. 
Give one estate as one life. None is bound 
To work for two, who brought himself to thrall. 
God made me one man ; love makes me no more. 
Till labour come, and make my weakness score. 

I do not understand this stanza. 

p. 41. 

My flesh began unto my soul in pain. 
Sicknesses clave my bones, &c. 

Either a misprint, or a noticeable idiom of the word 

and Harvey's Synagogue 373 

** began ? " Yes ! and a very beautiful idiom it is : the 
first colloquy or address of the flesh. 
P. 46. 

What though my body run to dust ? 
Faith cleaves unto it, counting every grain, 
With an exact and most particular trust, 

Reserving all for flesh again. 

I find few historical facts so difficult of solution as the 
continuance, in Protestantism, of this anti-scriptural 

P. 54. Second poem on The Holy Scriptures. 

This verse marks that, and both do make a motion 
Unto a third that ten leaves off doth lie. 

The spiritual unity of the Bible = the order and connec- 
tion of organic forms in which the unity of life is shewn, 
though as widely dispersed in the world of sight as the 


Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion, 
These three make up some Christian's destiny. 

Som.e misprint. 
P. 87. 

Sweet Spring, full of sweet days and roses, 
A box where sweets compacted lie. 


P. 92. Man. 

Each thing is full of duty : 
Waters united are our navigation : 
Distinguished, our habitation ; 

Below, our drink ; above, our meat : 
Both are our cleanliness. Hath one such beauty ? 
Then how are all things neat ! 

'Distinguished.' I understand this but imperfectly. 
Did they form an island ? and the next lines refer perhaps 
to the then belief that all fruits grow and are nourished 
by water. But then how is the ascending sap " our clean- 
liness ? " Perhaps, therefore, the rains. 

P. 140. 

But he doth bid us take his blood for wine. 

Nay, the contrary ; take wine to be blood, and the 
blood of a man who died 1800 years ago. This is the faith 

374 Notes on Herbert's Temple 

which even the Church of England demands ; ^ for con- 
substantiation only adds a mystery to that of Transub- 
stantiation, which it implies. 

P. 175. The Flower. 

A delicious poem. 


How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clear 
Are thy returns I e'en as the flowers in spring ; 

To which, besides their own demean, 
The late past frosts tributes of pleasure bring. 
Grief melts away. 
Like snow in May, 
As if there were no such cold thing. 

"The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring." 

u — uu — u — 

Epitritus primus + Dactyl + Trochee + a long word 
— syllable, which, together with the pause intervening 
between it and the word — trochee, equals u u u - form a 
pleasing variety in the Pentameter Iambic with rhjnnes. 
Ex. gr. 

The late past frosts | tributes of | pleasure | bring. 

N.B. First, the difference between -u | — and an 
amphimacer - u - | and this not always or necessarily 
arising out of the latter being one word. It may even 
consist of three words, yet the effect be the same. It is 
the pause that makes the difference. Secondly, the expedi- 
ency, if not necessity, that the iirst syllable both of the 
Dactyl and the Trochee should be short by quantity, and 
only = - by force of accent or position — the Epitrite being 
true lengths. — Whether the last syllable be - or = - the 
force of the rhymes renders indifferent. Thus, .... 

1 This is one of my father's marginalia, which I can hardly persuade myself he would 
have re-written just as it stands. Where does the Church of England affirm that the 
w'mt. per se literally is the blood shed 1800 years ago? The language of our Church is 
that " we receiving these creatures of bread and wine, &c. may be partakers of His most 
blessed body and blood : " that " to such as rightly receive the same the cup of blessing 
is a partaking of the blood of Christ." Does not this language intimate, that the blood 
of Christ is spiritually produced in the soul through a faithful reception of the appointed 
symbols, rather than that the wine itself, apart from the soul, has become the blood? 
In one sense, indeed, it is the blood of Christ to the soul : it may be metaphorically 
called so, if, by means of it, the blood is really, though spiritually, partaken. More 
than this is surely not affirmed in our formularies, nor taught by our great divines in 
general. I do not write these words by way of arg-unient, but because I cannot re-print 
such a note of my father's, which has excited surprise in some of his studious readers, 
without a protest. S. C 

and Harvey's Synagogue 375 

" As if there were no such cold thing." Had been no 
ch thin^ 

P. 181. 

such thing 

Thou who condemnest Jewish hate, &c. 
Call home thine eye, (that busy wanderer,) 
That choice may be thy story. 

Their choice. 
P. 184. 

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine 
E'en in my enemies' sight. 
P. 201. Judgment. 

Almighty Judge, how shall poor wretches brook 
Thy dreadful look, &c. 

"What others mean to do, I know not well ; 

Yet I here tell. 
That some will turn thee to some leaves therein 

So void of sin. 
That they in merit shall excel. 

I should not have expected from Herbert so open an 
avowal of Romanism in the article of merit. In the same 
spirit is *' Holy Macarius, and great Anthony," p. 205.^ 

P. 237. The Communion Table. 

And for the matter whereof it is made. 

The matter is not much. 

Although it be of tuch, 
Or wood, or metal, what will last, or fade ; 

So vanity 
And superstition avoided be. 

i Herbert however adds : 

'* But I resolve, when thou shalt call for mine, 
That to decline, 
And thrust a Testament into thy hand : 

Let that be scann'd ; 
There thou shalt find my faults are thine." 

Martin Luther himself might have penned this concluding stanza. 

Since I wrote the above, a note in Mr. Pickering's edition of Herbert has been pointed 
out to me. 

" The Rev. Dr. BHss has kindly furnished the following judicious remark, and which 
is proved to be correct, as the word is printed * heare ' in the first edition {1630." He 
says, " Let mc take this opportunity of mentioning what a very learned and able friend 
pointed out on this note. The fact is, Coleridge has been misled by an error of the 

What others mean to do, I know not well, 
Yet I here tell, &c. &c. 

should be hear tell. The sense is then obvious, and Herbert is not made to do that 
which he was the last man in the world to have done, namely, to avow ' Romanism in 
the article of merit.'" 

This suggestion once occurred to myself, and appears to be right, as it is verified by 
the first edition : but at the time it seemed to me so obvious, that surely the correction 
would have been made before if there had not been some rea.son against it. S. C. 

376 Notes on Herbert's Temple 

Tuch rhyming to much, from the German tuch, cloth, 1 
never met with before, as an EngUsh word. So I find platt 
for foliage in Stanley's Hist, of Philosophy, p. 22. 

P. 252. The Synagogue, by Christopher Harvey. 

The Bishop. 

But who can show of old that ever any 
Presbyteries without their bishops were : 
Though bishops without presbyteries many, &c. 

An instance of proving too much. If Bishop without 
Presb. B. = Presb. i.e. no Bishop. 
P. 253. The Bishop. 

To rule and to be ruled are distinct. 
And several duties, severally belong 
To several persons. 

Functions of times, but not persons, of necessity ? Ex. 
Bishop to Archbishop. 

P. 255. Church Festivals. 

Who loves not you, doth but in vain profess 
That he loves God, or heaven, or happiness. 

Equally unthinking and uncharitable ; — I approve of 
them ; — but yet remember Roman Catholic idolatry, and 
that it originated in such high-flown metaphors as these. 

P. 255. The Sabbath, or Lord's Day. 

Hail Vail 

Holy Wholly 

King of days, &c. To thy praise, &c. 

Make it sense and lose the rhyme ; or make it rhyme 
and lose the sense. 

P. 258. The Nativity, or Christmas Day. 

Unfold thy face, unmask thy ray, 
Shine forth, bright sun, double the day. 
Let no malignant misty fume, tic. 

The only poem in The Synagogue which possesses poetic 
merit ; with a few changes and additions this would be a 
striking poem. 

Substitute the following for the fifth to the eighth line. 

To sheath or blunt one happy ray, 
That wins new splendour from the day. 
This day that gives thee power to rise. 
And shine on hearts as well as eyes : 

Extract from a Letter 377 

This birth-day of all souls, when first 
On eyes of flesh and blood did burst 
That primal great lucific light, 
That rays to thee, to us gave sight. 

P. 267. Whit-Sunday. 

Nay, startle not to hear that rushing wind, 
WTierewith this place is shaken, &c. 

To hear at once so great variety 
Of language from them come, &c. 

The Spiritual miracle was the descent of the Holy Ghost : 
the outward the wind and the tongues : and so St. Peter 
himself explains it. That each individual obtained the 
power of speaking all languages, is neither contained in, 
nor fairly deducible from, St. Luke's account. 

P. 269. Trinity Sunday. 

The Trinity 
In Unity, 
And Unity 
In Trinity, 
All reason doth transcend. 

Most true, but not contradict. Reason is to faith, as the 
eye to the telescope. 





December, 1818. 

To feel the full force of the Christian religion it is perhaps 
necessary, for many tempers, that they should first be 
made to feel, experimentally, the hollowness of human 
friendship, the presumptuous emptiness of human hopes. 
I find more substantial comfort now in pious George 
Herbert's Temple, which I used to read to amuse myself 
with his quaintness, in short, only to laugh at, than in 
all the poetry since the poems of Milton. If you have 
not read Herbert I can recommend the book to you con- 
fidently. The poem entitled " The Flower " is especiaDy 

378 Notes on Gray j 

affecting, and to me such a phrase as " and relish versing " 
expresses a sincerity and reaUty, which I would unwiUingly 
exchange for the more dignified " and once more love the 
Muse," &c. and so with many other of Herbert's homely 


O71 a distant prospect of Eton College. 

Vol. i. p. 9. 

Wanders the hoary Thames along 

His silver-winding way. Gray 

We want, methinks, a little treatise from some man of 
flexible good sense, and weU versed in the Greek poets, 
especially Homer, the choral, and other lyrics, containing 
first a history of compound epithets, and then the laws 
and licenses. I am not so much disposed as I used to be 
to quarrel with such an epithet as " silver-winding ; " un- 
grammatical as the hyphen is, it is not wholly illogical, 
for the phrase conveys more than silvery and winding. 
It gives, namely, the unity of the impression, the co- 
inherence of the brightness, the motion, and the hne of 

P. ID. 

Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen 

Full many a sprightly race 
Disporting on thy margent green. 

The paths of pleasure trace ; 
Who foremost now delight to cleave. 
With pliant arm, thy glassy wave ? 

The captive linnet which enthral ? 
What idle progeny succeed 
To chase the rolling circle's speed, 

Or urge the flying ball ? Gray. 

This is the only stanza that appears to me very objection- 
able in point of diction. This, I must confess, is not only 
falsetto throughout, but is at once harsh and feeble, and 
very far the worst ten lines in all the works of Mr. Gray, 
English or Latin, prose or verse. 

Notes on Gray 379 

p. 12. 

And envy wan, and faded care,^ 
Grim-visaged comfortless despair,^ 
And sorrow's piercing dart.-^ 

^ Bad in the first, ^ in the second, ^ in the last degree. 

p. 15. 

The proud are taught to taste of pain. Gray. 

There is a want of dignity — a sort of irony in this phrase 
to my feeling that would be more proper in dramatic than 
in lyric composition. 

On Gray's Platonica, vol. 1. p. 299. — 547. 

Whatever might be expected from a scholar, a gentle- 
man, a man of exquisite taste, as the quintessence of sane 
and sound good sense, Mr. Gray appears to me to have per- 
formed. The poet Plato, the orator Plato, Plato the ex- 
quisite dramatist of conversation, the seer and the painter 
of character, Plato the high-bred, highly-educated, aristo- 
cratic republican, the man and the gentleman of quality 
stands full before us from behind the curtain as Gray has 
drawn it back. Even so does Socrates, the social wise 
old man, the practical moralist. But Plato the philosopher, 
but the divine Plato, was not to be comprehended within 
the field of vision, or be commanded by the fixed immove- 
able telescope of Mr. Locke's human understanding. The 
whole sweep of the best philosophic reflections of French 
or English fabric in the age of our scholarly bard, was not 
commensurate with the mighty orb. The little, according 
to my convictions at least, the very little of proper Platon- 
ism contained in the written books of Plato, who himself, 
in an epistle, the authenticity of which there is no tenable 
ground for doubting, as I was rejoiced to find Mr. Gray 
acknowledge, has declared all he had written to be sub- 
stantially Socratic, and not a fair exponent of his own 
tenets,^ even this little, Mr. Gray has either misconceived 
or honestlyconfessed that,as he was not one of the initiated, 
it was utterly beyond his comprehension. Finally, to 
repeat the explanation with which I closed the last page 
of these notes and extracts, 

Volsimi e vidi Plato 

(ma non quel Plato) 

1 See Plato's second epistle (ppaffTeof 87) aot, di alPiy/xivv k. t. X. and towards 
the end rk dt vvv \ey6fieya Sw/fparouj iffrl, k. t. X. See also the 7th Eptstle, 
p. 341. 

380 Notes on Gray 

Che'n quella schiera ando piu presso a! segno, 
Al qual' aggiunge, a chi dal Cielo e dato.^ 

S. T. Coleridge, 18 19. 
P. 385. Hippias Major. 

We learn from this dialogue in how poor a condition the art of 
reasoning on moral and abstracted subjects was before the time of 
Socrates : for it is impossible that Plato should introduce a sophist 
of the first reputation for eloquence and knowledge in several 
kinds, talking in a manner below the absurdity and weakness of a 
child ; unless he had really drawn after the life. No less than 
twenty-four pages are here spent in vain, only to force it into the 
head of Hippias that there is such a thing as a general idea ; and 
that, before we can dispute on any subject, we should give a defini- 
tion of it. 

Is not this, its improbability out of the question, contra- 
dicted by the Protagoras of Plato's own drawing ? Are 
there no authors, no physicians in London at the present 
moment, of " the first reputation," i.e. whom a certain class 
cry up : for in no other sense is the phrase historically 
applicable to Hippias, whom a Sydenham redivivus or a 
new Stahl might not exhibit as pompous ignoramuses ? no 
one Hippias amongst them ? But we need not flee to con- 
jectures. The ratiocination assigned by Aristotle and 
Plato himself to Gorgias and then to the Eleatic School, are 
positive proofs that Mr. Gray has mistaken the satire of an 
individual for a characteristic of an age or class. 

May I dare whisper to the reeds without proclaiming that 
I am in the state of Midas, — may I dare to hint that Mr. 
Gray himself had not, and through the spectacles of Mr. 
Locke and his followers, could not have seen the difficulties 
which Hippias found in a general idea, secundum Pla- 
tonem ? S. T. C. 

P. 386. Notes 289. Passages of Heraclitus. 

' KvdpC)Triav 6 <ro0wroTOS irpbs Qeov iridTjKOS (paueTrai. 

This latter passage is undoubtedly the original of that 
famous thought in Pope's Essaj^ on xMan, B. 2 : 

" And shewed a Newton as we shew an ape." 

I remember to have met nearly the same words in one of 
our elder Poets. 
P. 390—91- 
That a sophist wais a kind of merchant, or rather a retailer oi 

^ Petrarch's 'J'rioti/o deUa l<ama, cap. terz. v. 4-6. 

Notes on Gray 381 

food for the soul, and, like other shopkeepers, would exert his 
eloquence to recommend his own goods. The misfortune was, we 
could not carry them off, like corporeal viands, set them by a 
while, and consider them at leisure, whether they were wholesome 
or not, before we tasted them : that in this case we have no vessel 
but the soul to receive them in, which will necessarily retain a 
tincture, and perhaps, much to its prejudice, of all which is instilled 
into it. 

Query, if Socrates, himself a scholar of the sophists, is 
accurate, did not the change of 6 co^pig into 6 i.o(pi6r'!)g, in the 
single case of Solon, refer to the wisdom-causing influences 
of his legislation ? Mem : — to examine whether ^ptvTKS-rr.i 
was, or was not, more generally used at first in malum 
sensum, or rather the proper force originally of the termina- 
tion /Vry;j, dffTTjg — whether (as it is evidently verbal) it 
imply a reflex or a transitive act. 

P. 399. 'Or/ 'A//tat)/a. 

This is the true key and great moral of the dialogue, that know- 
ledge alone is the source of virtue, and ignorance the source of vice ; 
it was Plato's own principle, see Plat. Epist. 7. p. 336. 'A/xadia, i^^s 
iravTa ko-ko, vracnv t^pi^wTat /cai ^Xaffrdvei /cat els varepov diroTeXel Kapirov 
TOLS yevwiqaacTL TriKpdraToy. See also Sophist, p. 228 and 229, and 
Euthydemus from p. 278 to 281, and De Legib. L. 3. p. 688.) and 
probably it was also the principle of Socrates : the consequence of 
it is, that virtue may be taught, and may be acquired : and that 
philosophy alone can point us out the way to it. 

More than our word. Ignorance, is contained in the' A,aa^/a 
of Plato. I, however, freely acknowledge, that this was 
the point of view, from which Socrates did for the most part 
contemplate moral good and evil. Now and then he seems 
to have taken a higher station, but soon quitted it for the 
lower, more generally intelligible. Hence the vacillation 
of Socrates himself : hence, too, the immediate opposition 
of his disciples, Antisthenes and Aristippus. But that this 
was Plato's own principle I exceedingly doubt. That it 
was not the principle of Platonism, as taught by the first 
Academy under Speusippus, I do not doubt at all. See the 
xivth Essay, p. 129-39 of The Friend, vol. i. In the sense 
in which d,aat)/a$ 'rrdvra xaxa epp/^urai^ x.t.X. is maintained 

in that Essay, so and no otherwise can it be truly asserted, 
and so and no otherwise did ug t/^ot yi dozsT, Plato teach it. 

382 Barry Cornwall 


Barry Cornwall is a poet, me saltern judice : and in that 
sense of the term, in which I apply it to C. Lamb and W. 
Wordsworth. There are poems of i^reat merit, the authors 
of which I should yet not leei impelled so to designate. 

The faults of these poems are no less things of hope, than 
the beauties ; both are just what they ought to be, — that 
is, now. 

If B. C. be faithful to his genius, it in due time will warn 
him, that as poetry is the identity of all other knowledges, 
so a poet cannot be a great poet, but as being likewise 
inclusively an historian and naturalist, in the light, as well 
as the life, of philosophy : all other men's worlds are his 

Hints obiter are : — not to permit delicacy and exquisite- 
ness to seduce into effeminacy. Not to permit beauties by 
repetition to become mannerisms. To be jealous of frag- 
mentary composition, — as epicurism of genius, and apple- 
pie made all of quinces. Item, that dramatic poetry must 
be poetry hid in thought and passion, — not thought or 
passion disguised in the dress of poetry. Lastly, to be 
economic and withholding in similes, figures, &c. They 
will all find their place, sooner or later, each as the luminary 
of a sphere of its own. There can be no galaxy in poetry, 
because it is language, — ergo processive, — ergo every the 
smallest star must be seen singly. 

There are not five metrists in the kingdom, whose works 
are known by me, to whom I could have held myself allowed 
to have spoken so plainly. But B. C. is a man of genius, 
and it depends on himself — (competence protecting him 
from gnawing or distracting cares) — to become a rightful 
poet, — that is, a great man. 

Oh ! for such a man worldly prudence is transfigured 
into the highest spiritual duty ! How generous is self- 
interest in him, whose true self is all that is good and hope- 
ful in all ages, as far as the language of Spenser, Shakspeare, 
and Milton shall become the mother-tongue ! 

A map of the road to Paradise, drawn in Purgatory, on 
the confines of Hell, by S. T. C. July 30, 1819. 

1 Written in Mr. Lamb's copy of the ' Dramatic Scenes.' Ed. 

On the Mode of Studying Kant 383 



Accept my thanks for the rules of the harmony. I per- 
ceive that the members are chiefly merchants ; but yet it 
were to be wished, that such an enlargement of the society 
could be brought about as, retaining all its present purposes, 
might add to them the groundwork of a library of northern 
literature, and by bringing together the many gentlemen 
who are attached to it be the means of eventually making 
both countries better acquainted with the valuable part of 
each other ; especially, the English with the German, for 
our most sensible men look at the German Muses through 
a film of prejudice and utter misconception. 

With regard to philosophy, there are half a dozen things, 
good and bad, that in this country are so nick-named, but 
in the only accurate sense of the term, there neither are, 
have been, or ever will be but two essentially different 
schools of philosophy, the Platonic, and the Aristotelian. 
To the latter but with a somewhat nearer approach to the 
Platonic, Emanuel Kant belonged ; to the former Bacon 
and Leibnitz, and, in his riper and better years, Berkeley. 
And to this I profess myself an adherent — nihil novum, vel 
inauditum audemus ; though, as every man has a face of 
his own, without being more or less than a man, so is every 
true philosopher an original, without ceasing to be an 
inmate of Academus or of the Lyceum. But as to caution, 
I will just tell you how I proceeded myself twenty years and 
more ago, when I first felt a curiosity about Kant, and was 
fully aware that to master his meaning, as a system, would 
be a work of great labour and long time. First, I asked 
myself, have I the labour and the time in my power ? 
Secondly, if so, and if it would be of adequate importance 
to me if true, by what means can I arrive at a rational pre- 
sumption for or against ? I inquired after all the more 
popular writings of Kant — read them with delight. I then 
read the Prefaces of several of his systematic works, as the 
Prolegomena, &c. Here too every part, I understood, and 

1 This letter and the following notes on Jean Paul were communicated by Mr. H. C. 
Robinson. S. C 

384 On the Mode of Studying Kant 

that was nearly the whole, was replete with sound and 
plain, though bold and to me novel truths ; and I followed 
Socrates' adage respecting Heraclitus : all I understand is 
excellent, and I am bound to presume that the rest is at 
least worth the trouble of trying whether it be not equally 
so. In other words, until I understand a writer's ignor- 
ance, I presume myself ignorant of his understanding. 
Permit me to refer you to a chapter on this subject in my 
Literary Life.^ 

Yet I by no means recommend to you an extension of 
your philosophic researches beyond Kant. In him is con- 
tained all that can be learned, and as to the results, you have 
a firm faith in God, the responsible Will of Man and Im- 
mortahty ; and Kant will demonstrate to you, that this 
faith is acquiesced in, indeed, nay, confirmed by the Reason 
and Understanding, but grounded on Postulates authorized 
and substantiated solely by the Moral Being. There are 
likewise mine : and whether the Ideas are regulative only, 
as Aristotle and Kant teach, or constitutive and actual, as 
Pythagoras and Plato, is of living interest to the philo- 
sopher by profession alone. Both systems are equally 
true, if only the former abstain from denying universally 
what is denied indi\'idually. He, for whom Ideas are con- 
stitutive, win in effect be a Platonist ; and in those for 
whom they are regulative only, Platonism is but a hollow 
affectation. Dryden could not have been a Platonist : 
Shakspeare, Milton, Dante, Michael Angelo and Rafael 
could not have been other than Platonists. Lord Bacon, 
who never read Plato's works, taught pure Platonism in 
his great work, the Novum Organum, and abuses his divine 
predecessor for fantastic nonsense, which he had been the 
first to explode. Accept my best respects, &c. 


14 Jan. 18 14. Highgate. 

1 Biographia Literarfa. vol. i. chap xii. p. ?.t2. S. C 

Notes on Jean Paul 385 


Written in the blank leaf at the beginning. 

S ist zu merken, dass die Sprache in diesem Buch nicht 

sey wie in gewohnlich Bette, darin der Gedankenstrom 
ordentlich and chrbar hinstromt, sondern wie cin Ver- 
wiistung in Damm and Deichen.^ 
Preface, p. xxxi. 

Two Revolutions, the Gallican, which sacrifices the individuals 
to the Idea or to the State, and in time of need, even the latter 
themselves ; — and the Kantian-Moralist (Kantisch-Moralische), 
which abandons the affection of human Love altogether, because it 
can so little be described as merit ; these draw and station us 
forlorn human creatures ever further and more lonesomely one 
from another, each on a frosty uninhabited island : nay the Gallican 
which excites and arms feelings against feelings, does it less than 
the Critical, which teaches us to disarm and to dispense with them 
altogether ; and which neither allows Love to pass for the spring of 
virtiie, nor virtue for the source of Love.^ Transl. 

But surely Kant's aim was not to give a full Sittenlehre, 
or system of practical material morality, but the a priori 
form — Ethice formalis : which was then a most necessary 
work, and the only mode of quelling at once both Necessi- 
tarians and Meritmongers, and the idol common to both, 
Eudcemonism. If his followers have stood still in lazy 
adoration, instead of following up the road thus opened out 
to them, it is their fault not Kant's. 

S. T. C. 

1 It is observable that the language in this book is not as in an ordinary channel, 
wherein the stream of thought flows on in a seemly and regular manner, but like a 
violent flood rushing against dyke and mole. 

2 Zwei Revoluzionen, die gallische, welche der Idee oder dem Staate die Individtien, 
and im Nothsal diesen selber opfert, und die kantisch-moralische, welche den Aflfekt 
der Menschenliebe liegen lasset, weil er so wenig wie Verdienste geboten werden kan, 
diese ziehen und stellen uus verlas-ene Menschen immer weiter und einsamer aus 
cinander, jeden nur auf ein fro^tiges unbewohntes Eiland ; ja die gallische, die nur 
Gefiihle gegen Gefiihle bewafnet und aufhezt, thut es weniger als die kritische, die sie 
entwafnen und entbehren lehrt, und die weder die Liibe als Quelle der Tugend noch 
diese als Quelle von jener gelten lassen kan. 


He was one who with long and large arm still collected 
precious armfuls in whatever direction he pressed forward, 
yet still took up so much more than he could keep together, 
that those who followed him gleaned more from his 
continual droppings than he himself brought home ; — 
nay, made stately corn-ricks therewith, while the reaper 
himself was still seen only with a strutting armful of 
newly-cut sheaves. But I should misinform you grossly 
if I left you to infer that his collections were a heap of 
incoherent miscellanea. No ! the very contrary. Their 
variet}^ conjoined with the too great coherency, the too 
great both desire and power of referring them in systematic, 
nay, genetic subordination, was that which rendered his 
schemes gigantic and impracticable, as an author, and his 
conversation less instructive as a man. Auditor em inopem 
ipsa copia fecit. — Too much was given, all so weighty and 
brilliant as to preclude a chance of its being all received, — 
so that it not seldom passed over the hearer's mind like 
a roar of many waters. 







I CANNOT avoid the acknowledgment of the difficulty of 
the task I have undertaken ; yet I have undertaken it 
voluntarily, and I shall discharge it to the best of my 
abilities, requesting those who hear me to allow for de- 
ficiencies, to bear in mind the wide extent of my 
subject. The field is almost boundless as the sea, yet 
full of beauty and variety as the land : I feel in some 
sort oppressed by abundance ; inopem me copia fecit. 

What I most rely upon is your sympathy ; and, as I 
proceed, I trust that I shall interest you : sympathy and 
interest are to a lecturer like the sun and the showers to 
nature — absolutely necessary to the production of blossoms 
and fruit. 

May I venture to observe that my own life has been 
employed more in reading and conversation — in collecting 
and reflecting, than in printing and publishing ; for I never 
felt the desire, so often experienced by others, of becoming 
an author. It was accident made me an author in the 
first instance : I was caUed a poet almost before I knew 
I could write poetry. In what I have to offer I shall 
speak freely, whether of myself or of my contemporaries, 
when it is necessary : conscious superiority, if indeed it 
be superior, need not fear to have its self-love or its pride 
wounded ; and contempt, the most absurd and debasing 
feeling that can actuate the human mind, must be far 
below the sphere in which lofty intellects live and move 
and have their being. 

On the first examination of a work, especially a work 
of fiction and fancy, it is right to inquire to what feeling 
or passion it addresses itself — to the benevolent, or to 
the vindictive ? whether it is calculated to excite emula- 
tion, or to produce envy, under the common mask of 
scorn ? and, in the next place, whether the pleasure we 
receive from it has a tendency to keep us good, to make 
us better, or to reward us for being good. 


390 The First Lecture 

It will be expected of me, as my prospectus indicates, 
that I should say something of the causes of false criticism, 
particularly as regards poetry, though I do not mean 
to confine myself to that only : in doing so, it will be 
necessary for me to point out some of the obstacles which 
impede, and possibly prevent, the formation of a correct 
judgment. These are either — 

1. Accidental causes, arising out of the particular 
circumstances of the age in which we live ; or — 

2. Permanent causes, flowing out of the general prin- 
ciples of our nature. 

Under the first head, accidental causes, may be classed 
— I. The events that have occurred in our ov/n day, which, 
from their importance alone, have created a world of 
readers. 2. The practice of public speaking, which 
encourages a too great desire to be understood at once, 
and at the first blush. 3. The prevalence of reviews, 
magazines, newspapers, novels, &c. 

Of the last, and of the perusal of them, I will run the 
risk of asserting, that where the reading of novels prevails 
as a habit, it occasions in time the entire destruction 
of the powers of the mind : it is such an utter loss to the 
reader, that it is not so much to be called pass-time as 
kill-time. It conveys no trustworthy information as 
to facts ; it produces no improvement of the intellect, 
but fills the mind with a mawkish and morbid sensibility, 
which is directly hostile to the cultivation, invigoration, 
and enlargement of the nobler faculties of the under- 

Reviews are generally pernicious, because the writers 
determine without reference to fixed principles — because 
reviews are usually filled with personalities ; and, above 
all, because they teach people rather to judge than to 
consider, to decide than to reflect : thus they encourage 
superficiality, and induce the thoughtless and the idle to 
adopt sentiments conveyed under the authoritative We, 
and not, by the working and subsequent clearing of their 
own minds, to form just original opinions. In older times 
writers were looked up to almost as intermediate beings, 
between angels and men ; afterwards they were regarded 
as venerable and, perhaps, inspired teachers ; subsequently 
they descended to the level of learned and instructive 
friends ; but in modern days they are deemed culprits 

The First Lecture 391 

more than benefactors : as culprits they are brought 
to the bar of self-erected and self-satisfied tribunals. If 
a person be now seen reading a new book, the most usual 
question is — " What trash have you there ? " I admit 
that there is some reason for this difference in the estimate ; 
for in these times, if a man fail as a tailor, or a shoe- 
maker, and can read and write correctly (for spelling is 
still of some consequence) he becomes an author.^ 

The crying sin of modern criticism is that it is over- 
loaded with personality. If an author commit an error, 
there is no wish to set him right for the sake of truth, 
but for the sake of triumph — that the reviewer may show 
how much wiser, or how much abler he is than the writer. 
Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, 
historians, biographers, &c., if they could : they have 
tried their talents at one or at the other, and have 
failed ; therefore they turn critics, and, like the Roman 
emperor, a critic most hates those who excel in the particu- 
lar department in which he, the critic, has notoriously been 
defeated. This is an age of personality and political 
gossip, when insects, as in ancient Egypt, are worshipped 
in proportion to the venom of their stings — when poems, 
and especially satires, are valued according to the number 
of living names they contain ; and where the notes, how- 
ever, have this comparative excellence, that they are 
generally more poetical and pointed than the text. This 
style of criticism is at the present moment one of the 
chief pillars of the Scotch professorial court ; and, as to 
personality in poems, I remember to have once seen an 
epic advertised, and strongly recommended, because it con- 
tained more than a hundred names of living characters. 

How derogatory, how degrading, this is to true poetry 
I need not say. A very wise writer has maintained that 
there is more difference between one man and another, 
than between man and a beast : I can conceive of no 
lower state of human existence than that of a being who, 
insensible to the beauties of poetry himself, endeavours to 
reduce others to his own level. What Hooker so eloquently 
claims for law I say of poetry — " Her seat is the bosom 
of God, her voice the harmony of the world ; all things 

1 Here my shorthand note informs me that Coleridge made a quotation from Jeremy 
Taylor, but from what work, or of what import, does not appear. He observed, that 
"although Jeremy Taylor wrote only in prose, according to some definitions of poetry 
he might be considered one of our noblest poets." — J. P. C. 

392 The First Lecture 

in heaven and on earth do her homage." It is the language 
of heaven, and in the exquisite dehght we derive from 
poetry we have, as it were, a type, a foretaste, and a 
prophecy of the joys of heaven. 

Another cause of false criticism is the greater purity 
of morality in the present age, compared even with the 
last. Our notions upon this subject are sometimes carried 
to excess, particularly among those who in print affect to 
enforce the value of a high standard. Far be it from me 
to depreciate that value ; but let me ask, who now will 
venture to read a number of the Spectator, or of the 
Tatler, to his wife and daughters, without first examining 
it to make sure that it contains no word which might, in 
our day, offend the delicacy of female ears, and shock 
feminine susceptibility ? Even our theatres, the repre- 
sentations at which usually reflect the morals of the 
period, have taken a sort of domestic turn, and while the 
performances at them may be said, in some sense, to 
improve the heart, there is no doubt that they vitiate the 
taste. The effect is bad, however good the cause. 

Attempts have been made to compose and adapt systems 
of education ; but it appears to me something like putting 
Greek and Latin grammars into the hands of boys, before 
they understand a word of Greek or Latin. These grammars 
contain instructions on all the minutiae and refinements of 
language, but of what use are they to persons who do not 
comprehend the first rudiments ? Why are you to furnish 
the means of judging, before you give the capacity to judge? 
These seem to me to be among the principal accidental 
causes of false criticism. 

Among the permanent causes, I may notice — 

First, the great pleasure we feel in being told of the know- 
ledge we possess, rather than of the ignorance we suffer. 
Let it be our first duty to teach thinking, and then what to 
think about. You cannot expect a person to be able to go 
through the arduous process of thinking, who has never 
exercised his faculties. In the Alps we see the chamois 
hunter ascend the most perilous precipices without danger, 
and leap from crag to crag over vast chasms without dread 
or difficulty, and who but a fool, if unpractised, would 
attempt to follow him ? it is not intrepidity alone that is 
necessary, but he who would imitate the hunter must have 
gone through the same process for the acquisition of 

The First Lecture 393 

strength, skill, and knowledge : he must exert, and be 
capable of exerting, the same muscular energies, and dis- 
play the same perseverance and courage, or all his efforts 
will be worse than fruitless : they will lead not only to 
disappointment, but to destruction. Systems have been 
invented with the avowed object of teaching people how to 
think ; but in my opinion the proper title for such a work 
ought to be " The Art of teaching how to think without 
thinking." Nobody endeavours to instruct a man how to 
leap, until he has first given him vigour and elasticity. 

Nothing is more essential — nothing can be more im- 
portant, than in every possible way to cultivate and im- 
prove the thinking powers : the mind as much requires 
exercise as the body, and no man can fully and adequately 
discharge the duties of whatever station he is placed in 
without the power of thought. I do not, of course, say 
that a man may not get through life without much thinking, 
or much power of thought ; but if he be a carpenter, with- 
out thought a carpenter he must remain : if he be a weaver, 
without thought a weaver he must remain. — On man God 
has not only bestowed gifts, but the power of giving : he 
is not a creature born but to live and die : he has had 
faculties communicated to him, which, if he do his duty, he 
is bound to communicate and make beneficial to others. 
Man, in a secondary sense, may be looked upon in part as 
his own creator, for by the improvement of the faculties 
bestowed upon him by God, he not only enlarges them, but 
may be said to bring new ones into existence. The 
Almighty has thus condescended to communicate to man, 
in a high state of moral cultivation, a portion of his own 
great attributes. 

A second permanent cause of false criticism is connected 
with the habit of not taking the trouble to think : it is the 
custom which some people have established of judging of 
books by books. — Hence to such the use and value of 
reviews. Why has nature given limbs, if they are not to be 
applied to motion and action ; why abilities, if they are to 
lie asleep, while we avail ourselves of the eyes, ears, and 
understandings of others ? As men often employ servants, 
to spare them the nuisance of rising from their seats and 
walking across a room, so men employ reviews in order to 
save themselves the trouble of exercising their own powers 
of judging : it is only mental slothfulness and sluggishness 

394 The First Lecture 

that induce so many to adopt, and take for granted the 
opinions of others. 

I may illustrate this moral imbecility by a case which 
came within my own knowledge. A friend of mine had 
seen it stated somewhere, or had heard it said, that Shak- 
speare had not made Constance, in " King John," speak 
the language of nature, when she exclaims on the loss of 

" Grief fills the room up of my absent child. 
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me ; 
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, 
Remembers me of all his gracious parts, 
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form : 
Then have I reason to be fond of grief." 

King John, Act iii.. Scene 4. 

Within three months after he had repeated the opinion 
(not thinking for himself) that these lines were out of 
nature, my friend died. I called upon his mother, an 
affectionate, but ignorant woman, who had scarcely heard 
the name of Shakspeare, much less read any of his plays. 
Like Philip, I endeavoured to console her, and among other 
things I told her, in the anguish of her sorrow, that she 
seemed to be as fond of grief as she had been of her son. 
What was her reply ? Almost a prose parody on the 
very language of Shakspeare — the same thoughts in nearly 
the same words, but with a different arrangement. An 
attestation like this is worth a thousand criticisms. 

As a third permanent cause of false criticism we may 
notice the vague use of terms. And here I may take the 
liberty of impressing upon my hearers, the fitness, if not 
the necessity, of employing the most appropriate words 
and expressions, even in common conversation, and in the 
ordinary tra.nsactions of life. If you want a substantive 
do not take the first that comes into your head, but that 
which most distinctly and peculiarly conveys your mean- 
ing : if an adjective, remember the grammatical use of 
that part of speech, and be careful that it expresses some 
quality in the substantive that you wish to impress upon 
your hearer. Reflect for a moment on the vague and 
uncertain manner in which the word " taste " has been 
often employed ; and how such epithets as " sublime," 
" majestic," " grand," " striking," " picturesque," &c., 

The First Lecture 395 

have been misapplied, and how they have been used on the 
most unworthy and inappropriate occasions. 

I was one day admiring one of the falls of the Clyde ; 
and ruminating upon what descriptive term could be most 
fitly applied to it, I came to the conclusion that the epithet 
" majestic " was the most appropriate. While I was still 
contemplating the scene a gentleman and a lady came up, 
neither of whose faces bore much of the stamp of superior 
intelligence, and the first words the gentleman uttered 
were ** It is very majestic." I was pleased to find such a 
confirmation of my opinion, and I complimented the 
spectator upon the choice of his epithet, saying that he had 
used the best word that could have been selected from our 
language : " Yes, sir," replied the gentleman, " I say it is 
very majestic : it is sublime, it is beautiful, it is grand, it is 
picturesque." — " Ay " (added the lady), "it is the prettiest 
thing I ever saw." I own that I was not a little dis- 

You will see, by the terms of my prospectus, that I 
intend my lectures to be, not only " in illustration of the 
principles of poetry," but to include a statement of the 
application of those principles, " as grounds of criticism 
on the most popular works of later English poets, those 
of the living included." If I had thought this task pre- 
sumptuous on my part, I should not have voluntarily 
undertaken it ; and in examining the merits, whether 
positive or comparative, of my contemporaries, I shall 
dismiss aU feelings and associations which might lead me 
from the formation of a right estimate. I shall give talent 
and genius its due praise, and only bestow censure where, 
as it seems to me, truth and justice demand it. I shall, 
of course, carefuUy avoid falling into that system of false 
criticism, which I condemn in others ; and, above all, 
whether I speak of those whom I know, or of those whom 
I do not know, of friends or of enemies, of the dead or of the 
living, my great aim will be to be strictly impartial. No 
man can truly apply principles, who displays the slightest 
bias in the application of them ; and I shall have much 
greater pleasure in pointing out the good, than in exposing 
the bad. I fear no accusation of arrogance from the 
amiable and the wise : I shall pity the weak, and despise 
the malevolent. 



The Second Lecture 


Readers may be divided into four classes : 

1. Sponges, who absorb all they read, and return it 
nearly in the same state, only a little dirtied. 

2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing, and are content to 
get through a book for the sake of getting through the 

3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what 
they read. 

4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who 
profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by 
it also.i 

I adverted in my last lecture to the prevailing laxity in 
the use of terms : this is the principal complaint to which 
the moderns are exposed ; but it is a grievous one, inas- 
much as it inevitably tends to the misapplication of words, 
and to the corruption of language. I mentioned the word 
" taste," but the remark applies not merely to substantives 
and adjectives, to things and their epithets, but to verbs : 
thus, how frequently is the verb " indorsed " strained 
from its true signification, as given by Milton in the ex- 
pression — " And elephants indorsed with towers." Again 
" virtue " has been equally perverted : originally it 
signified merely strength ; it then became strength of 
mind and valour, and it has now been changed to the 
class term for moral excellence ^ in all its various species. 
I only introduce these as instances by the way, and nothing 
could be easier than to multiply them. 

1 In " Notes and Queries," July 22. 1854, I quoted this four-fold division of readers ; 
and in a friendly letter to me, the Rev. S. R. Maitland pointed out the following 
passage in the Mishna {Cap. Patrum, v. § 15), which Coleridge clearly had in his 
mind, but to which my shorthand note does not state that he referred. It is very 
possible that I did not catch the reference ; but more probable that he omitted it, 
thinking it not necessary, in an extetnporaneous lecture, to quote chapter and verse for 
whatever he delivered. Had Coleridge previously written, or subsequently printed, 
his Lectures, he would, most likel}', not have omitted the information : — 

" Quadruplices conditiones (inveniunt) in his qui sedent coram sapientibus (audiendi 
causa) videlicet conditio spongiae, clepsydrae, sacci lecinacei, et cribri. Spongia 
sugendo attrahit omnia. Clepsydra, quod ex una parte attrahit, ex altera rursum 
effundit. Saccus fecinaceus effundit vinum, el colligi: feces. Cribrum emittit 
farinam, et colligit similam." — J. P. C. 

2 My shorthand note of this part of the sentence strongly illustrates the point 
adverted to in the Preface, viz. , how easy it is for a person, somewhat mechanically 
taking down words uttered vivd voce, to mishear what is said. I am confident that 
Coleridge's words were 'moral excellence" — there cannot be a doubt about it — but 
in my note it stands ^^ vtodern excellence." My ear deceived me, and I thought he 
said tnodcrn, when in tact he said "moral." — J. P. C. 

The Second Lecture 397 

At the same time, while I recommend precision both 
of thought and expression, I am far from advocating a 
pedantic niceness in the choice of language : such a course 
would only render conversation stiff and stilted. Dr. 
Johnson used to say that in the most unrestrained dis- 
course he always sought for the properest word, — that 
which best and most exactly conveyed his meaning : to a 
certain point he was right, but because he carried it too 
far, he was often laborious where he ought to have been 
light, and formal where he ought to have been familiar. 
Men ought to endeavour to distinguish subtilely, that they 
may be able afterwards to assimilate truly. 

I have often heard the question put whether Pope 
is a great poet, and it has been warmly debated on both 
sides, some positively maintaining the affirmative, and 
others dogmatically insisting upon the negative ; but it 
never occurred to either party to make the necessary 
preliminary inquiry — What is meant by the words " poet " 
and " poetry ? " Poetry is not merely invention : if 
it were, Gulliver's Travels would be poetry ; and before 
you can arrive at a decision of the question, as to Pope's 
claim, it is absolutely necessary to ascertain what people 
intend by the words they use. Harmonious versification 
no more makes poetry than mere invention makes a poet ; 
and to both these requisites there is much besides to be 
added. In morals, politics, and philosophy no useful 
discussion can be entered upon, unless we begin by ex- 
plaining and understanding the terms we employ. It is 
therefore requisite that I should state to you what I mean 
by the word " poetry," before I commence any considera- 
tion of the comparative merits of those who are popularly 
called " poets." 

Words are used in two ways : — 

1. In a sense that comprises everything called by that 
name. For instance, the words " poetry " and " sense " 
are employed in this manner, when we say that such a 
line is bad poetry or bad sense, when in truth it is neither 
poetry nor sense. If it be bad poetry, it is not poetry ; if 
it be bad sense, it is not sense. The same of " metre " : 
bad metre is not metre. 

2. In a philosophic sense, which must include a defini- 
tion of what is essential to the thing. Nobody means 
mere metre by poetry ; so, mere rhyme is not poetry. 

398 The Second Lecture 

Something more is required, and what is that something ? 
It is not wit, because we may have wit where we never 
dream of poetry. Is it the just observation of human 
hfe ? Is it a pecuUar and a feUcitous selection of words ? 
This, indeed, would come nearer to the taste of the present 
age, when sound is preferred to sense ; but I am happy 
to think that this taste is not likely to last long. 

The Greeks and Romans, in the best period of their 
literature, knew nothing of any such taste. High-flown 
epithets and violent metaphors, conveyed in inflated 
language, is not poetry. Simplicity is indispensable, and 
in Catullus it is often impossible that more simple language 
could be used ; there is scarcely a word or a line, which a 
lamenting mother in a cottage might not have employed.^ 
That I may be clearly understood, I will venture to give 
the following definition of poetry. 

It is an art (or whatever better term our language may 
afford) of representing, in words, external nature and 
human thoughts and affections, both relatively to human 
affections, by the production of as much immediate 
pleasure in parts, as is compatible with the largest sum 
of pleasure in the whole. 

Or, to vary the words, in order to make the abstract 
idea more intelligible : — 

It is the art of communicating whatever we wish to 
communicate, so as both to express and produce excite- 
ment, but for the purpose of immediate pleasure ; and 
each part is fitted to afford as much pleasure, as is com- 
patible with the largest sum in the whole. 

You will naturally ask my reasons for this definition of 
poetry, and they are these : — 

"It is a representation of nature ; " but that is not 
enough : the anatomist and the topographer give repre- 
sentations of nature ; therefore I add : 

" And of the human thoughts and affections." Here 
the metaphysician interferes : here our best novelists 
interfere Ukewise, — excepting that the latter describe 
with more minuteness, accuracy, and truth, than is con- 
sistent with poetry. Consequently I subjoin : 

" It must be relative to the human affections." Here 

1 It appears by my shorthand note that Coleridge here named some particular poem 
by Catullus ; but what it was is not stated, a blank having been left for the title. It 
would not be difficult to fill the chasm speculatively ; but I prefer to give my memo- 
randum as it stands.— J. P. C. 

The Second Lecture 399 

my chief point of difference is with the novel-writer, the 
historian, and all those who describe not only nature, and 
the human affections, but relatively to the human affec- 
tions : therefore I must add : 

" And it must be done for the purpose of immediate 
pleasure." In poetry the general good is to be accom- 
plished through the pleasure, and if the poet do not do 
that, he ceases to be a poet to him to whom he gives it 
not. Still, it is not enough, because we may point out 
many prose writers to whom the whole of the definition 
hitherto furnished would apply. I add, therefore, that it 
is not only for the purpose of immediate pleasure, but — 

" The work must be so constructed as to produce in 
each part that highest quantity of pleasure, or a high 
quantity of pleasure." There metre introduces its claim, 
where the feeling calls for it. Our language gives to 
expression a certain measure, and will, in a strong state 
of passion, admit of scansion from the very mouth. The 
very assumption that we are reading the work of a poet 
supposes that he is in a continuous state of excitement ; 
and thereby arises a language in prose unnatural, but in 
poetry natural. 

There is one error which ought to be peculiarly guarded 
against, which young poets are apt to fall into, and which 
old poets commit, from being no poets, but desirous of the 
end which true poets seek to attain. No : I revoke the 
words ; they are not desirous of that of which their little 
minds can have no just conception. They have no desire 
of fame — that glorious immortality of true greatness — 

" That lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes, 
And perfect witness of all judging Jove ; " 

Milton's Lycidas. 

but they struggle for reputation, that echo of an echo, in 
whose very etymon its signification is contained. Into 
this error the author of " The Botanic Garden " has fallen, 
through the whole of which work, I will venture to assert, 
there are not twenty images described as a man vv^ould 
describe them in a state of excitement. The poem is 
written with aU the tawdry industry of a milliner anxious 
to dress up a doll in silks and satins. Dr. Darwin laboured 
to make his style fine and gaudy, by accumulating and 
applying all the sonorous and handsome-looking words 

400 The Second Lecture 

in our language. This is not poetry, and I subjoin to my 
definition — 

That a true poem must give " as much pleasure in each 
part as is compatible with the greatest sum of pleasure in 
the whole." We must not look to parts merely, but to the 
whole, and to the effect of that whole. In reading Milton, 
for instance, scarcely a line can be pointed out which, 
critically examined, could be called in itself good : the 
poet would not have attempted to produce merely what 
is in general understood by a good line ; he sought to pro- 
duce glorious paragraphs and systems of harmony, or, as 
he himself expresses it, 

" Many a winding bout 
Of linked sweetness long drawn out." 

L'A llegro. 

Such, therefore, as I have now defined it, I shall consider 
the sense of the word " Poetry " : pleasurable excitement 
is its origin and object ; pleasure is the magic circle out 
of which the poet must not dare to tread. Part of my 
definition, you will be aware, would apply equally to the 
arts of painting and music, as to poetry ; but to the last 
are added words and metre, so that my definition is strictly 
and logically applicable to poetry, and to poetry only, 
which produces delight, the parent of so many virtues. 
When I was in Italy, a friend of mine, who pursued painting 
almost with the enthusiasm of madness, believing it 
superior to every other art, heard the definition I have 
given, acknowledged its correctness, and admitted the 
pre-eminence of poetry. 

I never shall forget, when in Rome, the acute sensation 
of pain I experienced on beholding the frescoes of Raphael 
and Michael Angelo, and on reflecting that they were in- 
debted for their preservation solely to the durable material 
upon which they were painted. There they are, the per- 
manent monuments (permanent as long as waUs and 
plaster last) of genius and skill, while many others of their 
mighty works have become the spoils of insatiate avarice, 
or the victims of wanton barbarism. How grateful ought 
mankind to be, that so many of the great hterary produc- 
tions of antiquity have come down to us — that the works 
of Homer, Euclid, and Plato, have been preserved — while 
we possess those of Bacon, Newton, Milton, Shakspeare, 

The Second Lecture 401 

and of so many other living-dead men of our own island. 
These, fortunately, may be considered indestructible : 
they shall remain to us till the end of time itself — till time, 
in the words of a great poet of the age of Shakspeare, has 
thrown his last dart at death, and shall himself submit to 
the final and inevitable destruction of all created matter.^ 

A second irruption of the Goths and Vandals could not 
now endanger their existence, secured as they are by the 
wonders of modern invention, and by the affectionate 
admiration of myriads of human beings. It is as nearly 
two centuries as possible since Shakspeare ceased to write, 
but when shall he cease to be read ? When shall he cease 
to give light and delight ? Yet even at this moment he is 
only receiving the first-fruits of that glory, which must 
continue to augment as long as our language is spoken. 
English has given immortality to him, and he has given 
immortality to English. Shakspeare can never die, and 
the language in which he wrote must with him live for ever. 

Yet, in spite of all this, some prejudices have attached 
themselves to the name of our illustrious countryman, 
which it will be necessary for me first to endeavour to over- 
come. On the continent, we may remark, the works of 
Shakspeare are honoured in a double way — by the admira- 
tion of the Germans, and by the contempt of the French. 

Among other points of objection taken by the French, 
perhaps, the most noticeable is, that he has not observed 
the sacred unities, so hallowed by the practice of their own 
extolled tragedians. They hold, of course after Corneille 
and Racine, that Sophocles is the most perfect model for 
tragedy, and Aristotle its most infallible censor ; and that 
as Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, and other dramas by Shakspeare 
are not framed upon that model, and consequently not 
subject to the same laws, they maintain (not having im- 
partiality enough to question the model, or to deny the 
rules of the Stagirite) that Shakspeare was a sort of 
irregular genius — that he is now and then tasteful and 
touching, but generally incorrect ; and, in short, that he 

1 Alluding, of course, to Ben Jonson's epitaph on the Countess of Pembroke : 
'* Underneath this sable herse 
Lies the subject of all verse, 
Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother. 
Death 1 ere thou hast slain another, 
Learn 'd, and fair, and good as she. 
Time shall throw a dart at thee." 

Ben /onsen's IVorks ; edit. Gifford, viii. 337.— J. P. C 

402 The Second Lecture 

was a mere child of nature, who did not know any better 
than to write as he has written. 

It is an old, and I have hitherto esteemed it a just, Latin 
maxim, Oportet discentem credere, edoctum judicare ; but 
modern practice has inverted it, and it ought now rather 
to stand, Oportet discentem judicare, edoctum credere. To 
remedy this mistake there is but one course, namely the 
acquirement of knowledge. I have often run the risk of 
applying to the ignorant, who assumed the post and pro- 
vince of judges, a ludicrous, but not inapt simile : they 
remind me of a congregation of frogs, involved in darkness 
in a ditch, who keep an eternal croaking, until a lantern is 
brought near the scene of their disputation, when they 
instantly cease their discordant harangues. They may be 
more politely resembled to night-flies, which flutter round 
the glimmering of a feeble taper, but are overpowered by 
the dazzling splendour of noon-day. Nor can it be other- 
wise, until the prevalent notion is exploded, that know- 
ledge is easily taught, and until the conviction is general, 
that the hardest thing learned is that people are ignorant. 
All are apt enough to discover and expose the ignorance of 
their friends, but their blind faith in their own sufficiency 
is something more than marvellous. 

Some persons have contended that mathematics ought 
to be taught by making the illustrations obvious to the 
senses. Nothing can be more absurd or injurious : it ought 
to be our never-ceasing effort to make people think, not 
feel ; and it is very much owing to this mistake that, to 
those who do not think, and have not been made to think, 
Shakspeare has been found so difficult of comprehension. 
The condition of the stage, and the character of the times 
in which our great poet flourished, must first of all be taken 
into account, in considering the question as to his judgment. 
If it were possible to say which of his great powers and 
qualifications is more admirable than the rest, it unques- 
tionably appears to me that his judgment is the most 
Vv'onderful ; and at this conviction I have arrived after a 
careful comparison of his productions with those of his best 
and greatest contemporaries. 

If indeed " King Lear " were to be tried by the laws 
which Aristotle established, and Sophocles obeyed, it must 
be at once admitted to be outrageously irregular ; and 
supposing the rules regarding the unities to be founded on 

The Second Lecture 403 

man and nature, Shakspeare must be condemned for array- 
ing his works in charms with which they ought never to 
have been decorated. I have no doubt, however, that both 
were right in their divergent courses, and that they arrived 
at the same conclusion by a different process. 

Without entering into matters which must be generally 
known to persons of education, respecting the origin of 
tragedy and comedy among the Greeks, it may be observed, 
that the unities grew mainly out of the size and construc- 
tion of the ancient theatres : the plays represented were 
made to include within a short space of time events which 
it is impossible should have occurred in that short space. 
This fact alone establishes, that all dramatic performances 
were then looked upon merely as ideal. It is the same 
with us : nobody supposes that a tragedian suffers real 
pain when he is stabbed or tortured ; or that a comedian is 
in fact transported with delight when successful in pre- 
tended love. 

If we want to witness mere pain, we can visit the 
hospitals : if we seek the exhibition of mere pleasure, we 
can find it in ball-rooms. It is the representation of it, 
not the reality, that we require, the imitation, and not the 
thing itself ; and we pronounce it good or bad in pro- 
portion as the representation is an incorrect, or a correct 
imitation. The true pleasure we derive from theatrical 
performances arises from the fact that they are unreal and 
fictitious. If djring agonies were unfeigned, who, in these 
days of civilisation, could derive gratification from behold- 
ing them ? 

Performances in a large theatre made it necessary that 
the human voice should be unnaturally and unmusically 
stretched ; and hence the introduction of recitative, for 
the purpose of rendering pleasantly artificial the distortion 
of the face, and straining of the voice, occasioned by the 
magnitude of the building. The fact that the ancient 
choruses were always on the stage made it impossible 
that any change of place should be represented, or even 

The origin of the English stage is less boastful than that 
of the Greek stage : like the constitution under which we 
live, though more barbarous in its derivation, it gives more 
genuine and more diffused liberty, than Athens in the 
zenith of her political glory ever possessed. Our earUest 

404 The Second Lecture 

dramatic performances were religious, founded chiefly 
upon Scripture history ; and, although countenanced by 
the clergy, they were filled with blasphemies and ribaldry, 
such as the most hardened and desperate of the present 
day would not dare to utter. In these representations 
vice and the principle of evil were personified ; and hence 
the introduction of fools and clowns in dramas of a m^ore 
advanced period. 

While Shakspeare accommodated himself to the taste 
and spirit of the times in which he lived, his genius and his 
judgment taught him to use these characters with terrible 
effect, in aggravating the misery and agony of some of his 
most distressing scenes. This result is especially obvious 
in " King Lear " : the contrast of the Fool wonderfully 
heightens the colouring of some of the most painful situa- 
tions, where the old monarch in the depth and fury of his 
despair, complains to the warring elements of the ingrati- 
tude of his daughters. 

Spit, fire ! spout, rain ! 

Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters : 
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness, 
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children ; 
You owe me no subscription : then, let fall 
Your horrible pleasure ; here I stand, your slave, 
A poor, infirm, weak, and despis'd old man." 

King Lear, Act iii.. Scene 2. 

Just aftenvards, the Fool interposes, to heighten and 
inflame the passion of the scene. 

In other dramas, though perhaps in a less degree, our 
great poet has evinced the same skill and felicity of treat- 
ment ; and in no instance can it be justly alleged of him, 
as it may be of some of the ablest of his contemporaries, 
that he introduced his fool, or his clown, merely for the 
sake of exciting the laughter of his audiences. Shakspeare 
had a loftier and a better purpose, and in this respect 
availed himself of resources, which, it would almost seem, 
he alone possessed.^ 

1 I most deeply regret, that I have not recovered any of my notes of the third, fourth^ 
and fifth Lectures.— J. P. C. 


The Sixth Lecture 405 


The recollection of what has been said by some of his 
biographers, on the supposed fact that Milton received 
corporal punishment at college, induces me to express my 
entire dissent from the notion, that flogging or caning has 
a tendency to degrade and debase the minds of boys at 
school. In my opinion it is an entire mistake ; since this 
species of castigation has not only been inflicted time out 
of mind, but those who are subjected to it are well aware 
that the very highest persons in the realm, and those to 
whom people are accustomed to look up with most respect 
and reverence, such as the judges of the land, have quietly 
submitted to it in their pupilage. 

I well remember, about twenty years ago, an advertise- 
ment from a schoolmaster, in which he assured tender- 
hearted and foolish parents, that corporal punishment was 
never inflicted, excepting in cases of absolute necessity ; 
and that even then the rod was composed of lilies and 
roses, the latter, I conclude, stripped of their thorns. 
What, let me ask, has been the consequence, in many cases, 
of the abolition of flogging in schools ? Reluctance to 
remove a pimple has not unfrequently transferred the 
disease to the vitals : sparing the rod, for the correction of 
minor faults, has ended in the commission of the highest 
crimes. A man of great reputation (I should rather say 
of great notoriety) sometimes punished the pupils under his 
care by suspending them from the ceiling in baskets, 
exposed to the derision of their school-fellows ; at other 
times he pinned upon the clothes of the offender a number 
of last dying speeches and confessions, and employed 
another boy to walk before the culprit, making the usual 
monotonous lamentation and outcry. 

On one occasion this absurd, and really degrading 
punishment was inflicted because a boy read with a tone, 
although, I may observe in passing, that reading with 
intonation is strictly natural, and therefore truly proper, 
excepting in the excess. ^ 

1 This was the Lecturer's own mode of reading verse, and even in prose there was 
an approach to intonation. I have heard him read Spenser with such an excess (to use 
his own word) in this respect, that it almost amounted to a song. In blank verse it was 
less, but still apparent. Milton's "Liberty of unlicensed Printing" was a favourite 
piece of rhetorical writing, and portions of it I have heard Coleridge recite, never with- 
out a sort of habitual rise and fall of the voice. — J. P. C. 

4o6 The Sixth Lecture 

Then, as to the character and effect of the punishment 
just noticed, what must a parent of well regulated and 
instructed mind think of the exhibition of his son in the 
manner I have described ? Here, indeed, was debasement 
of the worst and lowest kind ; for the feelings of a child 
were outraged, and made to associate and connect them- 
selves with the sentence on an abandoned and shameless 
criminal. Who would not prefer the momentary, but 
useful, impression of flogging to this gross attack upon the 
moral feelings and self-respect of a boy ? Again, as to the 
proper mode of reading : why is a tone in reading to be 
visited as a criminal offence, especially when the estimate 
of that offence arises out of the ignorance and incom- 
petence of the master ? Every man who reads with true 
sensibility, especially poetry, must read with a tone, since 
it conveys, with additional effect, the harmony and rhythm 
of the verse, without in the slightest degree obscuring the 
meaning. That is the highest point of excellence in reading 
which gives to every thing, whether of thought or language, 
its most just expression. There may be a wrong tone, as 
a right, and a wrong tone is of course to be avoided ; but 
a poet writes in measure, and measure is best made ap- 
parent by reading with a tone, which heightens the verse, 
and does not in any respect lower the sense. I defy any 
man, who has a true relish of the beauty of versification, 
to read a canto of " the Fairy Queen," or a book of 
** Paradise Lost," without some species of intonation. 

In various instances we are hardly sensible of its exist- 
ence, but it does exist, and persons have not scrupled to 
say, and I believe it, that the tone of a good reader may be 
set to musical notation. If in these, and in other remarks 
that fall from me, I appear dogmatical, or dictatorial, it is 
to be borne in mind, that every man who takes upon him- 
self to lecture, requires that he should be considered by his 
hearers capable of teaching something that is valuable, or 
of saying something that is worth hearing. In a mixed 
audience not a few are desirous of instruction, and some 
require it ; but placed in my present situation I consider 
myself, not as a man who carries moveables into an empty 
house, but as a man who entering a generally well furnished 
dwelling, exhibits a light which enables the owner to see 
what is still wanting. I endeavour to introduce the means 
of ascertaining what is, and is not, in a man's own mind. 

The Sixth Lecture 407 

Not long since, when I lectured at the Royal Institution, 
I had the honour of sitting at the desk so ably occupied by 
Sir Humphry Davy, who may be said to have elevated the 
art of chemistry to the dignity of a science ; who has dis- 
covered that one common law is applicable to the mind 
and to the body, and who has enabled us to give a full and 
perfect Amen to the great axiom of Lord Bacon, that 
knowledge is power. In the delivery of that course I 
carefully prepared my first essay, and received for it a cold 
suffrage of approbation : from accidental causes I was 
unable to study the exact form and language of my second 
lecture, and when it was at an end, I obtained universal 
and heart-felt applause. What a lesson was this to me not 
to elaborate my materials, nor to consider too nicely the 
expressions I should employ, but to trust mainly to the 
extemporaneous ebullition of my thoughts. In this con- 
viction I have ventured to come before you here ; and may 
I add a hope, that what I offer will be received in a similar 
spirit ? It is true that my matter may not be so accurately 
arranged : it may not dovetail and fit at all times as nicely 
as could be wished ; but you shall have my thoughts warm 
from my heart, and fresh from my understanding : you 
shall have the whole skeleton, although the bones may not 
be put together with the utmost anatomical skill. 

The immense advantage possessed by men of genius 
over men of talents can be illustrated in no stronger 
manner, than by a comparison of the benefits resulting to 
mankind from the works of Homer and of Thucydides. 
The merits and claims of Thucydides, as a historian, are 
at once admitted ; but what care we for the incidents of 
the Peloponnesian War ? An individual may be ignorant 
of them, as far as regards the particular narrative of 
Thucydides ; but woe to that statesman, or, I may say, 
woe to that man, who has not availed himself of the wisdom 
contained in " the tale of Troy divine ! " 

Lord Bacon has beautifully expressed this idea, where he 
talks of the instability and destruction of the monuments 
of the greatest heroes, and compares them with the ever- 
lasting writings of Homer, one word of which has never 
been lost since the days of Pisistratus. Like a mighty ship, 
they have passed over the sea of time, not leaving a mere 
ideal track, which soon altogether disappears, but leaving a 
train of glory in its wake, present and enduring, daily acting 


The Sixth Lecture 

upon our minds, and ennobling us by grand thoughts and 
images : to this work, perhaps, the bravest of our soldiery 
may trace and attribute some of their heroic achievements. 
Just as the body is to the immortal mind, so are the actions 
of our bodily powers in proportion to those by which, 
independent of individual continuity,^ we are governed 
for ever and ever ; by which we call, not only the narrow 
circle of mankind (narrow comparatively) as they now 
exist, our brethren, but by which we carry our being into 
future ages, and call all who shall succeed us our brethren, 
until at length we arrive at that exalted state, when we 
shall welcome into Heaven thousands and thousands, who 
will exclaim — " To you I owe the first development of my 
imagination ; to you I owe the withdrawing of my mind 
from the low brutal part of my nature, to the lofty, the 
pure, and the perpetual." 

Adverting to the subject more immediately before us, 
I may observe that I have looked at the reign of Elizabeth, 
interesting on many accounts, with peculiar pleasure and 
satisfaction, because it furnished circumstances so favour- 
able to the existence, and to the full development of the 
powers of Shakespeare. The Reformation, just completed, 
had occasioned unusual activity of mind, a passion, as it 
were, for thinking, and for the discovery and use of words 
capable of expressing the objects of thought and invention. 
It was, consequently, the age of many conceits, and an age 
when, for a time, the intellect stood superior to the moral 

The difference between the state of mind in the reign 
of Elizabeth, and in that of Charles I. is astonishing. In 
the former period there was an amazing development of 
power, but all connected with prudential purposes — an 
attempt to reconcile the moral feeling with the full exercise 
of the powers of the mind, and the accomplishment of 
certain practical ends. Then lived Bacon, Burghley, Sir 
Walter Raleigh, Sir Philip Sidney, and a galaxy of great 
men, statesmen, lawyers, politicians, philosophers, and 
poets ; and it is lamentable that they should have degraded 

1 I give this passage exactly as I find it in my notes ; but it strikes me that something 
explanatory must have been accidentally omitted, and perhaps that the word I have 
written " continuity " ought to be contiguity. I might have left out the whole from 
"Just as the body " down to '* the pure and the perpetual," but 1 preferred showing 
my own imperfectness to omitting what may be clear to others, though, at this distance 
of time, not so evident to me. The general point and bearing of what Coleridge said 
will be easily understood. — J. P. C. 

The Sixth Lecture 409 

their mighty powers to such base designs and purposes, 
dissolving the rich pearls of their great faculties in a 
worthless acid, to be drunken by a harlot. What was 
seeking the favour of the Queen, to a man like Bacon, but 
the mere courtship of harlotry ? 

Compare this age with that of the republicans : that 
indeed was an awful age, as compared with our own. 
England may be said to have then overflowed from the 
fulness of grand principle — from the greatness which men 
felt in themselves, abstracted from the prudence with which 
they ought to have considered, whether their principles 
were, or were not, adapted to the condition of mankind at 
large. Compare the revolution then effected with that of 
a day not long past, when the bubbling-up and overflowing 
was occasioned by the elevation of the dregs — when there 
was a total absence of all principle, when the dregs had 
risen from the bottom to the top, and thus converted into 
scum, founded a monarchy to be the poisonous bane and 
misery of the rest of mankind. 

It is absolutely necessary to recollect, that the age in 
which Shakspeare hved was one of great abilities applied 
to individual and prudential purposes, and not an age of 
high moral feeling and lofty principle, which gives a man 
of genius the power of thinking of all things in reference 
to all. If, then, we should find that Shakspeare took 
these materials as they were presented to him, and yet to 
aU effectual purposes produced the same grand result as 
others attempted to produce in an age so much more 
favourable, shall we not feel and acknowledge the purity 
and holiness of genius — a light, which, however it might 
shine on a dunghill, was as pure as the divine effluence 
which created all the beauty of nature ? 

One of the consequences of the idea prevalent at the 
period when Shakspeare flourished, viz., that persons must 
be men of talents in proportion as they were gentlemen, 
renders certain characters in his dramas natural with 
reference to the date when they were drawn : when we 
read them we are aware that they are not of our age, and 
in one sense they may be said to be of no age. A friend 
of mine well remarked of Spenser, that he is out of space : 
the reader never knows where he is, but still he knows, 
from the consciousness within him, that all is as natural 
and proper, as if the country where the action is laid were 

4IO The Sixth Lecture 

distinctly pointed out, and marked down in a map. Shak- 
speare is as much out of time, as Spenser is out of space ; 
yet we feel conscious, though we never knew that such 
characters existed, that they might exist, and are satisfied 
with the belief in their existence. 

This circumstance enabled Shakspeare to paint truly, 
and according to the colouring of nature, a vast number 
of personages by the simple force of meditation : he had 
only to imitate certain parts of his own character, or to 
exaggerate such as existed in possibility, and they were 
at once true to nature, and fragments of the divine mind 
that drew them. Men who see the great luminary of our 
system through various optical instruments declare that it 
seems either square, triangular, or round, when in truth 
it is still the sun, unchanged in shape and proportion. So 
with the characters of our great poet : some may think 
them of one form, and some of another ; but they are still 
nature, still Shakspeare, and the creatures of his meditation. 

When I use the term meditation, I do not mean that 
our great dramatist was without observation of external 
circumstances : quite the reverse ; but mere observation 
may be able to produce an accurate copy, and even to 
furnish to other men's minds more than the copyist pro- 
fessed ; but what is produced can only consist of parts and 
fragments, according to the means and extent of observa- 
tion. Meditation looks at every character with inte'rest, 
only as it contains something generally true, and such as 
might be expressed in a philosophical problem. 

Shakspeare's characters may be reduced to a few — that 
is to say, to a few classes of characters. If you take his 
gentlemen, for instance, Biron is seen again in Mercutio, in 
Benedick, and in several others. They are men who com- 
bine the politeness of the courtier with the faculties of high 
intellect — those powers of combination and severance 
which only belong to an intellectual mind. The wonder is 
how Shakspeare can thus disguise himself, and possess such 
miraculous powers of conveying what he means without 
betraying the poet, and without even producing the con- 
sciousness of him. 

In the address of Mercutio regarding Queen Mab, which 
is so well known that it is unnecessary to repeat it, is to be 
noted all the fancy of the poet ; and the language in which 
it is conveyed possesses such facility and felicity, that one 

The Sixth Lecture 411 

would almost say that it was impossible for it to be thought, 
unless it were thought as naturally, and without effort, 
as Mercutio repeats it. This is the great art by which 
Shakspeare combines the poet and the gentleman through- 
out, borrowing from his most amiable nature that which 
alone could combine them, a perfect simplicity of mind, a 
delight in all that is excellent for its own sake, without 
reference to himself as causing it, and by that which dis- 
tinguishes him from all other poets, alluded to by one of 
his admirers in a short poem, where he tells us that while 
Shakspeare possessed all the powers of a man, and more 
than a man, yet he had all the feelings, the sensibilit}^ the 
purity, innocence, and delicacy of an affectionate girl of 

Before I enter upon the merits of the tragedy of '* Romeo 
and Juliet," it will be necessary for me to say something of 
the language of our country. And here I beg leave to 
observe, that although I have announced these as lectures 
upon Milton and Shakspeare, they are in reality, as also 
stated in the prospectus, intended to illustrate the prin- 
ciples of poetry : therefore, all must not be regarded as 
mere digression which does not immediately and ex- 
clusively refer to those writers. I have chosen them, in 
order to bring under the notice of my hearers great general 
truths ; in fact, whatever may aid myself, as well as others, 
in deciding upon the claims of all writers of all countries. 

The language, that is to say the particular tongue, in 
which Shakspeare wrote, cannot be left out of considera- 
tion. It will not be disputed, that one language may pos- 
sess advantages which another does not enjoy ; and we 
may state with confidence, that English excels all other lan- 
guages in the number of its practical words. The French 
may bear the palm in the names of trades, and in military 
and diplomatic terms. Of the German it may be said, 
that, exclusive of many mineralogical words, it is incom- 
parable in its metaphysical and psychological force : in 
another respect it nearly rivals the Greek, 

" The learned Greek, rich in fit epithets, 
Blest in the lovely marriage of pure words ; " * 

I mean in its capability of composition — of forming com- 

1 From Act I., Scene i, of "Lingua, or the Combat of the Tongue and the Five 
Senses." This drama is reprinted in Dodsley's Old Plays, vol. v. (last edition), and 
\he lines may be found on p. 107 of that volume. 

412 The Sixth Lecture 

pound words. Italian is the sweetest and softest language ; 
Spanish the most majestic. All these have their peculiar 
faults ; but I never can agree that any language is unfit for 
poetry, although different languages, from the condition 
and circumstances of the people, may certainly be adapted 
to one species of poetry more than to another. 

Take the French as an example. It is, perhaps, the most 
perspicuous and pointed language in the world, and there- 
fore best fitted for conversation, for the expression of light 
and airy passion, attaining its object by peculiar and 
felicitous turns of phrase, which are evanescent, and, like 
the beautifully coloured dust on the wings of a butterfly, 
must not be judged by the test of touch. It appears as if 
it were all surface and had no substratum, and it constantly 
most dangerously tampers with morals, without positively 
offending decency. As the language for what is called 
modern genteel comedy all others must yield to French. 

Italian can only be deemed second to Spanish, and 
Spanish to Greek, which contains all the excellences of 
all languages. Italian, though sweet and soft, is not 
deficient in force and dignity ; and I may appeal to Ariosto, 
as a poet who displays to the utmost advantage the use 
of his native tongue for all purposes, whether of passion, 
sentiment, humour, or description. 

But in English I find that which is possessed by no other 
modern language, and which, as it were, appropriates it to 
the drama. It is a language made out of many, and it has 
consequently many words, which originally had the same 
meaning ; but in the progress of society those words have 
gradually assumed different shades of meaning. Take 
any homogeneous language, such as German, and try to 
translate into it the following lines : — 

" But not to one, in this benighted age, 
Is that diviner inspiration given. 
That burns in Shakspeare's or in Milton's page. 
The pomp and prodigality of heaven." 

Gray's Stanzas to Bentley. 

In German it would be necessary to say " the pomp 
and spendthriftness of heaven," because the German has 
not, as we have, one word with two such distinct meanings, 
one expressing the nobler, the other the baser idea of the 
same action. 

The monosyllabic character of English enables us, 

The Sixth Lecture 413 

besides, to express more meaning in a shorter compass than 
can be done in any other language. In truth, EngUsh 
may be called the harvest of the unconscious wisdom of 
various nations, and was not the formation of any particu- 
lar time, or assemblage of individuals. Hence the number 
of its passionate phrases — its metaphorical terms, not 
borrowed from poets, but adopted by them. Our com- 
monest people, when excited by passion, constantly employ 
them : if a mother lose her child she is full of the wildest 
fancies, and the words she uses assume a tone of dignity ; 
for the constant hearing and reading of the Bible and 
Liturgy clothes her thoughts not only in the most natural, 
but in the most beautiful forms of language. 

I have been induced to offer these remarks, in order to 
obviate an objection often made against Shakspeare on 
the ground of the multitude of his conceits. I do not 
pretend to justify every conceit, and a vast number have 
been most unfairly imputed to him ; for I am satisfied that 
many portions of scenes attributed to Shakspeare were 
never written by him. I admit, however, that even in 
those which bear the strongest characteristics of his mind, 
there are some conceits not strictly to be vindicated. 
The notion against which I declare war is, that whenever 
a conceit is met with it is unnatural. People who enter- 
tain this opinion forget, that had they lived in the age 
of Shakspeare, they would have deemed them natural. 
Dry den in his translation of Juvenal has used the words 
" Look round the world," which are a literal version of 
the original ; but Dr. Johnson has swelled and expanded 
this expression into the following couplet : — 

" Let observation, Avith extensive view, 
Survey mankind from China to Peru ; ** 

Vanity of Human Wishes. 

mere bombast and tautology ; as much as to say, " Let 
observation with extensive observation observe mankind 

Had Dr. Johnson lived in the time of Shakspeare, or 
even of Dry den, he would never have been guilty of such 
an outrage upon common sense and common language ; 
and if people would, in idea, throw themselves back a 
couple of centuries, they would find that conceits, and even 
puns, were very allowable, because very natural. Puns 

414 The Sixth Lecture 

often arise out of a mingled sense of injury, and contempt 
of the person inflicting it, and, as it seems to me, it is a 
natural way of expressing that mixed feeling. I could 
point out puns in Shakspeare, where they appear almost 
as if the first openings of the mouth of nature — where 
nothing else could so properly be said. This is not peculiar 
to puns, but is of much wider application : read any part 
of the works of our great dramatist, and the conviction 
comes upon you irresistibly, not only that what he puts 
into the mouths of his personages might have been said, 
but that it must have been said, because nothing so proper 
could have been said. 

In a future lecture I will enter somewhat into the history 
of conceits, and shew the wise use that has heretofore been 
made of them. I will now (and I hope it will be received 
with favour) attempt a defence of conceits and puns, 
taking my examples mainly from the poet under considera- 
tion. I admit, of course, that they may be misapplied ; 
but throughout life, I may say, I never have discovered 
the wrong use of a thing, without having previously dis- 
covered the right use of it. To the young I would remark, 
that it is always unwise to judge of anything by its defects : 
the first attempt ought to be to discover its excellences. 
If a man come into my company and abuse a book, his 
invectives coming down like water from a shower bath, I 
never feel obliged to him : he probably tells me no news, 
for all works, even the best, have defects, and they are 
easily seen ; but if a man show me beauties, I thank him 
for his information, because, in my time, I have unfortu- 
nately gone through so many volumes that have had little 
or nothing to recommend them. Always begin with the 
good — a Jove principium — and the bad will make itself 
evident enough, quite as soon as is desirable. 

I will proceed to speak of Shakspeare's wit, in connexion 
with his much abused puns and conceits ; because an 
excellent writer, who has done good service to the public 
taste by driving out the nonsense of the Italian school, has 
expressed his surprise, that aU the other excellences of 
Shakspeare were, in a greater or less degree, possessed by 
his contemporaries : thus, Ben Jonson had one qualifica- 
tion, Massinger another, while he declares that Beaumont 
and Fletcher had equal knowledge of human nature, with 
more variety. The point in which none of them had 

The Sixth Lecture 415 

approached Shakspeare, according to this writer, was his 
wit. I own, I was somewhat shocked to see it gravely said 
in print, that the quahty by which Shakspeare was to be 
individualised from all others was, what is ordinarily called, 
wit. I had read his plays over and over, and it did not 
strike me that wit was his great and characteristic superi- 
ority. In reading Voltaire, or (to take a standard and most 
witty comedy cls an example) in reading ** The School for 
Scandal," I never experienced the same sort of feeling as 
in reading Shakspeare. 

That Shakspeare has wit is indisputable, but it is not 
the same kind of wit as in other writers : his wit is blended 
with the other qualities of his works, and is, by its nature, 
capable of being so blended. It appears in all parts of his 
productions, in his tragedies, comedies, and histories : it is 
not like the wit of Voltaire, and of many modern writers, 
to whom the epithet " witty " has been properly apphed, 
whose wit consists in a mere combination of words ; but 
in at least nine times out of ten in Shakspeare, the wit is 
produced not by a combination of words, but by a com- 
bination of images. 

It is not always easy to distinguish between wit and 
fancy. When the whole pleasure received is derived from 
surprise at an unexpected turn of expression, then I call 
it wit ; but when the pleasure is produced not only by 
surprise, but also by an image which remains with us and 
gratifies for its own sake, then I call it fancy. I know of 
no mode so satisfactory of distinguishing between wit and 
fancy. I appeal to the recollection of those who hear me, 
whether the greater part of what passes for wit in Shak- 
speare, is not most exquisite humour, heightened by a 
figure, and attributed to a particular character ? Take 
the instance of the flea on Bardolph's nose, which Falstaff 
compares to a soul suft'ering in purgatory. The images 
themselves, in cases like this, afford a great part of the 

These remarks are not without importance in forming 
a judgment of poets and writers in general : there is a wide 
difference between the talent which gives a sort of electric 
surprise by a mere turn of phrase, and that higher ability 
which produces surprise by a permanent medium, and 
always leaves something behind it, which satisfies the 
mind as well as tickles the hearing. The first belongs to 

4i6 The Sixth Lecture 

men of cleverness, who, having been long in the world, 
have observed the turns of phrase which please in company, 
and which, passing away the moment, are passed in a 
moment, being no longer recollected than the time they 
take in utterance. We must all have seen and known 
such people ; and I remember saying of one of them that 
he was like a man who squandered his estate in farthings : 
he gave away so many, that he must needs have been 
wealthy. This sort of talent by no means constitutes 
genius, although it has some affinity to it. 

The wit of Shakspeare is, as it were, like the flourishing 
of a man's stick, when he is walking, in the full flow of 
animal spirits : it is a sort of exuberance of hilarity which 
disburdens, and it resembles a conductor, to distribute a 
portion of our gladness to the surrounding air. While, 
however, it disburdens, it leaves behind what is weightiest 
and most important, and what most contributes to some 
direct aim and purpose. 

I will now touch upon a very serious charge against 
Shakspeare — that of indecency and immorality. Many 
have been those who have endeavoured to exculpate him 
by saying, that it was the vice of his age ; but he was 
too great to require exculpation from the accidents of any 
age. These persons have appealed to Beaumont and 
Fletcher, to Massinger, and to other less eminent drama- 
tists, to prove that what is complained of was common to 
them all. Oh ! shame and sorrow, if it were so : there is 
nothing common to Shakspeare and to other writers of his 
day — not even the language they employed. 

In order to form a proper judgment upon this point, it 
is necessary to make a distinction between manners and 
morals ; and that distinction being once established, and 
clearly comprehended, Shakspeare will appear as pure a 
writer, in reference to all that we ought to be, and to all 
that we ought to feel, as he is wonderful in reference to 
his intellectual faculties. 

By manners I mean what is dependent on the par- 
cular customs and fashions of the age. Even in a state 
of comparative barbarism as to manners, there may be, 
and there is, morality. But give me leave to say that 
we have seen much worse times than those — times when 
the mind was so enervated and degraded, that the most 
distant associations, that could possibly connect our ideas 

The Sixth Lecture 417 

with the basest feeUngs, immediately brought forward 
those base feeUngs, without reference to the nobler im- 
pulses ; thus destroying the little remnant of humanity, 
excluding from the mind what is good, and introducing 
what is bad to keep the bestial nature company. 

On looking through Shakspeare, offences against 
decency and manners may certainly be pointed out ; 
but let us examine history minutely, and we shall find 
that this was the ordinary language of the time, and then 
let us ask, where is the offence ? The offence, so to call 
it, was not committed wantonly, and for the sake of 
offending, but for the sake of merriment ; for what is 
most observable in Shakspeare, in reference to this topic, 
is that what he says is always calculated to raise a gust 
of laughter, that would, as it were, blow a.way all impure 
ideas, if it did not excite abhorrence of them. 

Above all, let us compare him with some modern writers, 
the servile imitators of the French, and we shall receive 
a most instructive lesson. I may take the liberty of 
reading the following note, written by me after witnessing 
the performance of a modern play at Malta, about nine 
years ago : — "I went to the theatre, and came away 
without waiting for the entertainment. The longer I live, 
the more I am impressed with the exceeding immorality 
of modern plays : I can scarcely refrain from anger and 
laughter at the shamelessness, and the absurdity of the 
presumption which presents itself, when I think of their 
pretences to superior morality, compared with the plays 
of Shakspeare." 

Here let me pause for one moment ; for while reading 
my note I call to mind a novel, on the sofa or toilet of 
nearly every woman of quality, in which the author 
gravely warns parents against the indiscreet communica- 
tion to their children of the contents of some parts of 
the Bible, as calculated to injure their morals. Another 
modern author, who has done his utmost to undermine 
the innocence of the young of both sexes, has the effrontery 
to protest against the exhibition of the bare leg of a 
Corinthian female. My note thus pursues the subject : — 

" In Shakspeare there are a few gross speeches, but it 

is doubtful to me if they would produce any ill effect on 

an unsullied mind ; while in some modern plays, as well as 

in some modern novels, there is a systematic undermining 


4i8 The Sixth Lecture 

of all morality : they are written in the true cant ol 
humanity, that has no object but to impose ; where 
virtue is not placed in action, or in the habits that lead to 
action, but, like the title of a book I have heard of, they 
are ' a hot huddle of indefinite sensations.' In these the 
lowest incitements to piety are obtruded upon us ; like 
an impudent rascal at a masquerade, who is well known 
in spite of his vizor, or known by it, and yet is allowed to 
be impudent in virtue of his disguise. In short, I appeal 
to the whole of Shakspeare's writings, whether his gross- 
ness is not the mere sport of fancy, dissipating low feelings 
by exciting the intellect, and only injuring while it offends ? 
Modern dramas injure in consequence of not offending. 
Shakspeare's worst passages are grossnesses against the 
degradations of our nature : those of our modern plays 
are too often delicacies directly in favour of them." 

Such was my note, made nine years ago, and I have 
since seen every reason to adhere firmly to the opinions 
it expresses. 

In my next lecture I will proceed to an examination of 
" Romeo and Juliet ; " and I take that tragedy, because 
in it are to be found aU the crude materials of future 
excellence. The poet, the great dramatic poet, is through- 
out seen, but the various parts of the composition are 
not blended with such harmony as in some of his after 
writings. I am directed to it, more than all, for this 
reason, — because it affords me the best opportunity of 
introducing Shakspeare as a delineator of female char- 
acter, and of love in all its forms, and with all the emotions 
which deserve that sweet and man-elevating name. 

It has been remarked, I believe by Dryden, that Shak- 
speare wrote for men only, but Beaumont and Fletcher 
(or rather " the gentle Fletcher ") for women. I wish to 
begin by shewing, not only that this is not true, but that, 
of all .writers for the stage, he only has drawn the female 
character with that mixture of the real and of the ideal 
which belongs to it ; and that there is no one female 
personage in the plays of all his contemporaries, of whom 
a man, seriously examining his heart and his good sense, 
can say " Let that woman be my companion through 
hfe : let her be the subject of my suit, and the reward of 
my success." 


The Seventh Lecture 419 


In a former lecture I endeavoured to point out the union 
of the Poet and the Philosopher, or rather the warm embrace 
between them, in the " Venus and Adonis " and " Lucrece " 
of Shakspeare. From thence I passed on to " Love's 
Labour's Lost," as the link between his character as a Poet, 
and his art as a Dramatist ; and I shewed that, although in 
that work the former was still predominant, yet that the 
germs of his subsequent dramatic power were easily 

I will now, as I promised in my last, proceed to " Romeo 
and Juliet," not because it is the earliest, or among the 
earliest of Shakspeare's works of that kind, but because 
in it are to be found specimens, in degree, of all the ex- 
cellences which he afterwards displayed in his more 
perfect dramas, but differing from them in being less 
forcibly evidenced, and less happily combined : all the 
parts are more or less present, but they are not united 
with the same harmony. 

There are, however, in " Romeo and Juliet " passages 
where the poet's whole excellence is evinced, so that 
nothing superior to them can be met with in the pro- 
ductions of his after years. The main distinction between 
this play and others is, as I said, that the parts are less 
happily combined, or to borrow a phrase from the painter, 
the whole work is less in keeping. Grand portions are 
produced : we have limbs of giant growth ; but the 
production, as a whole, in which each part gives delight 
for itself, and the whole, consisting of these delightful 
parts, communicates the highest intellectual pleasure and 
satisfaction, is the result of the application of judgment 
and taste. These are not to be attained but by painful 
study, and to the sacrifice of the stronger pleasures derived 
from the dazzling light which a man of genius throws over 
every circumstance, and where we are chiefly struck 
by vivid and distinct images. Taste is an attainment 
after a poet has been discipHned by experience, and has 
added to genius that talent by which he knows what part 
of his genius he can make acceptable, and intelligible to 
the portion of mankind for which he writes. 

In my mind it would be a hopeless symptom, as regards 

420 The Seventh Lecture 

genius, if I found a young man with anything Uke perfect 
taste. In the earUer works of Shakspeare we have a pro- 
fusion of double epithets, and sometimes even the coarsest 
terms are employed, if they convey a more vivid image ; 
but by degrees the associations are connected with the 
image they are designed to impress, and the poet descends 
from the ideal into the real world so far as to conjoin both — 
to give a sphere of active operations to the ideal, and to 
elevate and refine the real. 

In " Romeo and Juliet " the principal characters may 
be divided into two classes : in one class passion — the 
passion of love — is drawn and drawn truly, as weU as 
beautifully ; but the persons are not individualised farther 
than as the actor appears on the stage. It is a very just 
description and development of love, without giving, if I 
may so express myself, the philosophical history of it — 
without shewing how the man became acted upon by that 
particular passion, but leading it through all the incidents 
of the drama, and rendering it predominant. 

Tybalt is, in himself, a commonplace personage. And 
here allow me to remark upon a great distinction between 
Shakspeare, and all who have written in imitation of him. 
I know no character in his plays (unless indeed Pistol be 
an exception) which can be called the mere portrait of an 
individual : while the reader feels all the satisfaction 
arising from individuality, yet that very individual is a 
sort of class character, and this circumstance renders 
Shakspeare the poet of all ages. 

Tybalt is a man abandoned to his passions — with all the 
pride of family, only because he thought it belonged to 
him as a member of that family, and valuing himself 
highly, simply because he does not care for death. This 
indifference to death is perhaps more common than any 
other feeling : men are apt to flatter themselves extra- 
vagantly, merely because they possess a quality which it 
is a disgrace not to have, but which a wise man never puts 
forward, but when it is necessary. 

Jeremy Taylor in one part of his voluminous works, 
speaking of a great man, says that he was naturally a 
coward, as indeed most men are, knowing the value of life, 
but the power of his reason enabled him, when required, 
to conduct himself with uniform courage and hardihood. 
The good bishop, perhaps, had in his mind a story, told by 

The Seventh Lecture 421 

one of the ancients, of a Philosopher and a Coxcomb, on 
board the same ship during a storm : the Coxcomb reviled 
the Philosopher for betraying marks of fear : " Why are 
you so frightened ? I am not afraid of being drowned : 
I do not care a farthing for my life." — " You are perfectly 
right," said the Philosopher, " for your life is not worth a 

Shakspeare never takes pains to make his characters 
win your esteem, but leaves it to the general command of 
the passions, and to poetic justice. It is most beautiful 
to observe, in " Romeo and Juliet," that the characters 
principally engaged in the incidents are preserved innocent 
from all that could lower them in our opinion, while the 
rest of the personages, deserving little interest in them- 
selves, derive it from being instrumental in those situations 
in which the more important personages develope their 
thoughts and passions. 

Look at Capulet — a worthy, noble-minded old man of 
high rank, with all the impatience that is likely to accom- 
pany it. It is delightful to see all the sensibilities of our 
nature so exquisitely called forth ; as if the poet had the 
hundred arms of the polypus, and had thrown them out 
in aU directions to catch the predominant feeling. We may 
see in Capulet the manner in which anger seizes hold of 
everything that comes in its way, in order to express itself, 
as in the lines where he reproves Tybalt for his fierceness of 
behaviour, which led him to wish to insult a Montague, and 
disturb the merriment. — 

" Go to, go to ; 
You are a saucy boy. Is't so, indeed ? 
This trick may chance to scath you ; — I know what. 
You must contrary me ! marry, 'tis time. — 
Well said, my hearts ! — You are a princox : go : 
Be quiet or — More light, more light ! — For shame ! 
I'll make you quiet. — What ! cheerly, my hearts ! " 

Act I., Scene $. 

The line 

" This trick may chance to scath you ; — I know what," 

was an allusion to the legac}/ Tybalt might expect ; and 
then, seeing the lights burn dimly, Capulet turns his anger 
against the servants. Thus we see that no one passion 
Is so predominant, but that it includes all the parts of the 
character, and the reader never has a mere abstract of a 

422 The Seventh Lecture 

passion, as of wrath or ambition, but the whole man is 
presented to him — the one predominant passion acting, if 
I may so say, as the leader of the band to the rest. 

It could not be expected that the poet should introduce 
such a character as Hamlet into every play ; but even 
in those personages, which are subordinate to a hero so 
eminently philosophical, the passion is at least rendered 
instructive, and induces the reader to look with a keener 
eye, and a finer judgment into human nature. 

Shakspeare has this advantage over all other dramatists 
— that he has availed himself of his psychological genius 
to develope all the minutiae of the human heart : shewing 
us the thing that, to common observers, he seems solely 
intent upon, he makes visible what we should not other- 
wise have seen : just as, after looking at distant objects 
through a telescope, when we behold them subsequently 
with the naked eye, we see them with greater distinctness, 
and in more detail, than we should otherwise have done. 

Mercutio is one of our poet's truly Shakspearean char- 
acters ; for throughout his plays, but especially in those 
of the highest order, it is plain that the personages were 
drawn rather from meditation than from observation, or 
to speak correctly, more from observation, the child of 
meditation. It is comparatively easy for a man to go 
about the world, as if with a pocket-book in his hand, 
carefully noting down what he sees and hears : by practice 
he acquires considerable facility in representing what he 
has observed, himself frequently unconscious of its worth, 
or its bearings. This is entirely different from the observa- 
tion of a mind, v/hich, having formed a theory and a 
system upon its own nature, remarks all things that are 
examples of its tmth, confirming it in that truth, and, 
above all, enabling it to convey the truths of philosophy, 
as mere effects derived from, what we may call, the outward 
watchings of life. 

Hence it is that Shakspeare's favourite characters are 
full of such lively intellect. Mercutio is a man possessing 
all the elements of a poet : the whole world was, as it were, 
subject to his law of association. Whenever he wishes to 
impress anything, all things become his servants for the 
purpose : all things tell the same tale, and sound in unison. 
This faculty, moreover, is combined with the manners 
and feelings of a perfect gentleman, himself utterly un- 

The Seventh Lecture 423 

conscious of his powers. By his loss it was contrived that 
the whole catastrophe of the tragedy should be brought 
about : it endears him to Romeo, and gives to the death of 
Mercutio an importance which it could not otherwise have 

I say this in answer to an observation, I think by Dry den 
(to which indeed Dr. Johnson has fully replied), that Shak- 
speare having carried the part of Mercutio as far as he 
could, till his genius was exhausted, had killed him in the 
third Act, to get him out of the way. What shallow 
nonsense ! As I have remarked, upon the death of 
Mercutio the whole catastrophe depends ; it is produced 
by it. The scene in which it occurs serves to show how 
indifference to any subject but one, and aversion to activity 
on the part of Romeo, may be overcome and roused to the 
most resolute and determined conduct. Had not Mercutio 
been rendered so amiable and so interesting, we could not 
have felt so strongly the necessity for Romeo's interference, 
connecting it immediately, and passionately, with the 
future fortunes of the lover and his mistress. 

But what am I to say of the Nurse ? We have been 
told that her character is the mere fruit of observation — 
that it is like Swift's " Polite Conversation," certainly the 
most stupendous work of human memory, and of un- 
ceasingly active attention to what passes around us, upon 
record. The Nurse in " Romeo and Juliet " has some- 
times been compared to a portrait by Gerard Dow, in 
which every hair was so exquisitely painted, that it would 
bear the test of the microscope. Now, I appeal confidently 
to my hearers whether the closest observation of the 
manners of one or two old nurses would have enabled 
Shakspeare to draw this character of admirable generalisa- 
tion ? Surely not. Let any man conjure up in his mind 
all the quahties and peculiarities that can possibly belong 
to a nurse, and he will find them in Shakspeare's picture 
of the old woman : nothing is omitted. This effect is not 
produced by mere observation. The great prerogative 
of genius (and Shakspeare felt and availed himself of it) 
is now to swell itself to the dignity of a god, and now to 
subdue and keep dormant some part of that lofty nature, 
and to descend even to the lowest character — to become 
everything, in fact, but the vicious. 

Thus, in the Nurse you have all the garrulity of old- 

424 The Seventh Lecture 

age, and all its fondness ; for the affection of old-age is one 
of the greatest consolations of humanity. I have often 
thought what a melancholy world this would be without 
children, and what an inhuman world without the aged. 

You have also in the Nurse the arrogance of ignorance, 
with the pride of meanness at being connected with a 
great family. You have the grossness, too, which that 
situation never removes, though it sometimes suspends it ; 
and, arising from that grossness, the little low vices 
attendant upon it, which, indeed, in such minds are 
scarcely vices. — Romeo at one time was the most delight- 
ful and excellent young man, and the Nurse all willingness 
to assist him ; but her disposition soon turns in favour 
of Paris, for whom she professes precisely the same admira- 
tion. How wonderfully are these low peculiarities con- 
trasted with a young and pure mind, educated under 
different circumstances ! 

Another point ought to be mentioned as characteristic 
of the ignorance of the Nurse : — it is, that in all her re- 
collections, she assists herself by the remembrance of 
visual circumstances. The great difference, in this respect, 
between the cultivated and the uncultivated mind is 
this — that the cultivated mind will be found to recal 
the past by certain regular trains of cause and effect ; 
whereas, with the uncultivated mind, the past is recalled 
wholly by coincident images, or facts which happened 
at the same time. This position is fully exemplified in 
the following passages put into the mouth of the Nurse : — 

*' Even or odd, of all days in the year, 
Come Lammas eve at night shall she be fourteen. 
Susan and she — God rest all Christian souls ! — 
Were of an age. — Well, Susan is with God ; 
She was too good for me. But, as I said, 
On Lammas eve at night shall she be fourteen ; 
That shall she, marry : I remember it well. 
'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years ; 
And she was wean'd, — I never shall forget it, — 
Of all the days of the year, upon that day ; 
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug. 
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall : 
My lord and you were then at Mantua. — 
Nay, I do bear a brain : — but, as I said. 
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple 
Of my dug, and felt it bitter, pretty fool. 
To see it tetchy, and fall out with the dug ! 
Shake, quoth the dove-house : 'twas no need, I trow, 

The Seventh Lecture 425 

To bid me trudge. 

And since that time it is eleven years ; 

For then she could stand alone." 

Act I., Scene 3. 

She afterwards goes on with similar visual impressions, 
so true to the character. — More is here brought into one 
portrait than could have been ascertained by one man's 
mere observation, and without the introduction of a single 
incongruous point. 

I honour, I love, the works of Fielding as much, or 
perhaps more, than those of any other writer of fiction 
of that kind : take Fielding in his characters of postillions, 
landlords, and landladies, waiters, or indeed, of anybody 
who had come before his eye, and nothing can be more 
true, more happy, or more humorous ; but in all his chief 
personages, Tom Jones for instance, where Fielding was 
not directed by observation, where he could not assist 
himself by the close copying of what he saw, where it is 
necessary that something should take place, some words 
be spoken, or some object described, which he could not 
have witnessed (his soliloquies for example, or the inter- 
view between the hero and Sophia Western before the 
reconciliation) and I will venture to say, loving and honour- 
ing the man and his productions as I do, that nothing can 
be more forced and unnatural : the language is without 
vivacity or spirit, the whole matter is incongruous, and 
totally destitute of psychological truth. 

On the other hand, look at Shakspeare : where can 
any character be produced that does not speak the language 
of nature ? where does he not put into the mouths 
of his dramatis personcB, be they high or low. Kings or 
Constables, precisely what they must have said ? Where, 
from observation, could he learn the language proper 
to Sovereigns, Queens, Noblemen or Generals ? yet he 
invariably uses it. — Where, from observation, could he 
have learned such lines as these, which are put into the 
mouth of Othello, when he is talking to lago of Brabantio ? 

" Let him do his spite : 
My services, which I have done the signiory, 
Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know, 
Which, when I know that boasting is an honour, 
I shall promulgate, I fetch my life and being 
From men of royal siege ; and my demerits 
May speak, unbonneted, to as proud a fortune 

426 The Seventh Lecture 

As this that I have reach'd : for know, lago. 
But that I love the gentle Desdemona, 
I would not my unhoused free condition 
Put into circumscription and confine 
For the sea's worth." 

Act I., Scene 2. 

I ask where was Shakspeare to observe such language 
as this ? If he did observe it, it was with the inward eye 
of meditation upon his own nature : for the time, he 
became Othello, and spoke as Othello, in such circum- 
stances, must have spoken. 

Another remark I may make upon " Romeo and Juliet " 
is, that in this tragedy the poet is not, as I have hinted, 
entirely blended with the dramatist, — at least, not in the 
degree to be afterwards noticed in " Lear," " Hamlet," 
" Othello," or " Macbeth." Capulet and Montague not 
unfrequently talk a language only belonging to the poet, 
and not so characteristic of, and peculiar to, the passions 
of persons in the situations in which they are placed — a 
mistake, or rather an indistinctness, which many of our 
later dramatists have carried through the whole of their 

When I read the song of Deborah, I never think that 
she is a poet, although I think the song itself a sublime 
poem : it is as simple a dithyrambic production as exists 
in any language ; but it is the proper and characteristic 
effusion of a woman highly elevated by triumph, by the 
natural hatred of oppressors, and resulting from a bitter 
sense of wrong : it is a song of exultation on deliverance 
from these evils, a deliverance accomplished by herself. 
When she exclaims, " The inhabitants of the villages 
ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I, Deborah, arose, 
that I arose a mother in Israel," it is poetry in the highest 
sense : we have no reason, however, to suppose that if she 
had not been agitated by passion, and animated by victory, 
she would have been able so to express herself ; or that 
if she had been placed in different circumstances, she 
would have used such language of truth and passion. We 
are to remember that Shakspeare, not placed under cir- 
cumstances of excitement, and only wrought upon by 
his own vivid and vigorous imagination, writes a language 
that invariably, and intuitively becomes the condition and 
position of each character. 

On the other hand, there is a language not descriptive 

The Seventh Lecture 427 

of passion, nor uttered under the influence of it, which is 
at the same time poetic, and shows a high and active 
fancy, as when Capulet says to Paris, — 

" Such comfort as do lusty young men feel, 
When well-apparell'd April on the heel 
Of limping winter treads, even such delight 
Among fresh female buds, shall you this night 
Inherit at my house." 

Act I., Scene 2. 

Here the poet may be said to speak, rather than the 
dramatist ; and it would be easy to adduce other passages 
from this play, where Shakspeare, for a moment forgetting 
the character, utters his own words in his own person. 

In my mind, what have often been censured as Shak- 
speare's conceits are completely justifiable, as belonging 
to the state, age, or feeling of the individual. Some- 
times, when they cannot be vindicated on these grounds, 
they may well be excused by the taste of his own and of 
the preceding age ; as for instance, in Romeo's speech, 

" Here's much to do with hate, but more with love : — 
Why then, O brawling love ! O loving hate I 
O anything, of nothing first created ! 
O heavy lightness ! serious vanity ! 
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms ! 
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health ! 
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is ! " 

Act I., Scene i. 

I dare not pronounce such passages as these to be 
absolutely unnatural, not merely because I consider the 
author a much better judge than I can be, but because I 
can understand and allow for an effort of the mind, when 
it would describe what it cannot satisfy itself with the 
description of, to reconcile opposites and qualify contra- 
dictions, leaving a middle state of mind more strictly 
appropriate to the imagination than any other, when it 
is, as it were, hovering between images. As soon as it is 
fixed on one image, it becomes understanding ; but while 
it is unfixed and wavering between them, attaching itself 
permanently to none, it is imagination. Such is the fine 
description of Death in Milton : — 

" The other shape, 
If shape it might be call'd, that shape had none 
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb. 
Or substance might be call'd, that shadow seem'd. 

428 The Seventh Lecture 

For each seem'd either : black it stood as night ; 

Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell, 

And shook a dreadful dart : what seem'd his head 

The likeness of a kingly crown had on." 

Paradise Lost, Book II. 
The grandest efforts of poetry are where the imagination 
is called forth, not to produce a distinct form, but a strong 
working of the mind, still offering what is still repelled, 
and again creating what is again rejected ; the result being 
what the poet wishes to impress, namely, the substitution 
of a sublime feeling of the unimaginable for a mere image. 
I have sometimes thought that the passage just read might 
be quoted as exhibiting the narrow limit of painting, as 
compared with the boundless power of poetry : painting 
cannot go beyond a certain point ; poetry rejects all control, 
all confinement. Yet we know that sundry painters have 
attempted pictures of the meeting between Satan and 
Death at the gates of Hell ; and how was Death repre- 
sented ? Not as Milton has described him, but by the 
most defined thing that can be imagined — a skeleton, the 
dryest and hardest image that it is possible to discover ; 
which, instead of keeping the mind in a state of activit}^ 
reduces it to the merest passivity, — an image, compared 
with which a square, a triangle, or any other mathematical 
figure, is a luxuriant fancy. 

It is a general but mistaken notion that, because some 
forms of writing, and some combinations of thought, are 
not usual, they are not natural ; but we are to recollect 
that the dramatist represents his characters in every situa- 
tion of life and in every state of mind, and there is no form 
of language that may not be introduced with effect by a 
great and judicious poet, and yet be most strictly according 
to nature. Take punning, for instance, which may be the 
lowest, but at all events is the most harmless, kind of wit, 
because it never excites envy. A pun may be a necessary 
consequence of association : one man, attempting to prove 
something that was resisted by another, might, when 
agitated by strong feeling, employ a term used by his 
adversary with a directly contrary meaning to that for 
which that adversary had resorted to it : it might come 
into his mind as one way, and sometimes the best, of reply- 
ing to that adversary. This form of speech is generally 
produced by a mixture of anger and contempt, and punning 
is a natural mode of expressing them. 

The Seventh Lecture 429 

It is my intention to pass over none of the important 
so-called conceits of Shakspeare, not a few of which are 
introduced into his later productions with great propriety 
and effect. We are not to forget, that at the time he lived 
there was an attempt at, and an affectation of, quaintness 
and adornment, which emanated from the Court, and 
against which satire was directed by Shakspeare in the 
character of Osrick in Hamlet. Among the schoolmen of 
that age, and earlier, nothing was more common than the 
use of conceits : it began with the revival of letters, and 
the bias thus given was very generally felt and acknow- 

I have in my possession a dictionary of phrases, in which 
the epithets applied to love, hate, jealousy, and such 
abstract terms, are arranged ; and they consist almost 
entirely of words taken from Seneca and his imitators, or 
from the schoolmen, showing perpetual antithesis, and 
describing the passions by the conjunction and combination 
of things absolutely irreconcileable. In treating the matter 
thus, I am aware that I am only palliating the practice in 
Shakspeare : he ought to have had nothing to do with 
merely temporary peculiarities : he wrote not for his own 
only, but for aU ages, and so far I admit the use of some of 
his conceits to be a defect. They detract sometimes from 
his universality as to time, person, and situation. 

If we were able to discover, and to point out the peculiar 
faults, as well as the peculiar beauties of Shakspeare, it 
would materially assist us in deciding what authority ought 
to be attached to certain portions of what are generally 
called his works. If we met with a play, or certain scenes 
of a play, in which we could trace neither his defects nor 
his excellences, we should have the strongest reason for 
believing that he had had no hand in it. In the case of 
scenes so circumstanced we might come to the conclusion 
that they were taken from the older plays, which, in some 
instances, he reformed or altered, or that they were inserted 
afterwards by some under-hand, in order to please the mob. 
If a drama by Shakspeare turned out to be too heavy for 
popular audiences, the clown might be caUed in to lighten 
the representation ; and if it appeared that what was 
added was not in Shakspeare' s manner, the conclusion 
would be inevitable, that it was not from Shakspeare's 

430 The Seventh Lecture 

It remains for me to speak of the hero and heroine, of 
Romeo and JuUet themselves ; and I shall do so with un- 
affected diffidence, not merely on account of the delicacy, 
bat of the great importance of the subject. I feel that it 
is impossible to defend Shakspeare from the most cruel of 
all charges, — that he is an immoral writer — without enter- 
ing fully into his mode of pourtraying female characters, 
and of displaying the passion of love. It seems to me, that 
he has done both with greater perfection than any other 
writer of the known world, perhaps with the single excep- 
tion of Milton in his delineation of Eve. 

When I have heard it said, or seen it stated, that Shak- 
speare wrote for man, but the gentle Fletcher for woman, 
it has always given me something like acute pain, because 
to me it seems to do the greatest injustice to Shakspeare : 
when, too, I remember how much character is formed by 
what we read, I cannot look upon it as a light question, to 
be passed over as a mere amusement, like a game of cards or 
chess. I never have been able to tame down my mind to 
think poetry a sport, or an occupation for idle hours. 

Perhaps there is no more sure criterion of refinement in 
moral character, of the purity of intellectual intention, 
and of the deep conviction and perfect sense of what our 
own nature really is in all its combinations, than the 
different definitions different men would give of love. I 
I will not detain you by stating the various known defini- 
tions, some of which it may be better not to repeat : I will 
rather give you one of my own, which, I apprehend, is 
equally free from the extravagance of pretended Platonism 
(which, like other things which super-moralise, is sure to 
demoralise) and from its grosser opposite. 

Considering myself and my fellow-men as a sort of link 
between heaven and earth, being composed of body and 
soul, with power to reason and to will, and with that 
perpetual aspiration which tells us that this is ours for 
a while, but it is not ourselves ; considering man, I say, 
in this two-fold character, yet united in one person, I con- 
ceive that there can be no correct definition of love which 
does not correspond with our being, and with that sub- 
ordination of one part to another which constitutes our 
perfection. I would say therefore that — 

" Love is a desire of the whole being to be united to 
some thing, or some being, felt necessary to its complete- 

The Seventh Lecture 431 

ness, by the most perfect means that nature permits, 
and reason dictates." 

It is inevitable to every noble mind, whether man or 
woman, to feel itself, of itself, imperfect and insufficient, 
not as an animal only, but as a moral being. How wonder- 
fully, then, has Providence contrived for us, by making 
that which is necessary to us a step in our exaltation to 
a higher and nobler state ! The Creator has ordained 
that one should possess qualities which the other has not, 
and the union of both is the most complete ideal of human 
character. In everything the blending of the similar 
with the dissimilar is the secret of all pure delight. Who 
shall dare to stand alone, and vaunt himself, in himself, 
sufficient ? In poetry it is the blending of passion with 
order that constitutes perfection : this is still more 
the case in morals, and more than all in the exclusive 
attachment of the sexes. 

True it is, that the world and its business may be 
carried on without marriage ; but it is so evident that 
Providence intended man (the only animal of all climates, 
and whose reason is pre-eminent over instinct) to be the 
master of the world, that marriage, or the knitting to- 
gether of society by the tenderest, yet firmest ties, seems 
ordained to render him capable of maintaining his superi- 
ority over the brute creation. Man alone has been privi- 
leged to clothe himself, and to do all things so as to make 
him, as it were, a secondary creator of himself, and of 
his own happiness or misery : in this, as in all, the image 
of the Deity is impressed upon him. 

Providence, then, has not left us to prudence only ; for 
the power of calculation, which prudence implies, cannot 
have existed, but in a state which pre-supposes marriage. 
If God has done this, shall we suppose that he has given 
us no moral sense, no yearning, which is something more 
than animal, to secure that, without which man might 
form a herd, but could not be a society ? The very idea 
seems to breathe absurdity. 

From this union arise the paternal, filial, brotherly and 
sisterly relations of life ; and every state is but a family 
magnified. All the operations of mind, in short, all that 
distinguishes us from brutes, originate in the more perfect 
state of domestic life. — One infallible criterion in forming 
an opinion of a man is the reverence in which he holds 

432 The Seventh Lecture 

women. Plato has said, that in this way we rise from 
sensuahty to affection, from affection to love, and from 
love to the pure intellectual delight by which we become 
worthy to conceive that infinite in ourselves, without 
which it is impossible for man to believe in a God. In a 
word, the grandest and most delightful of all promises 
has been expressed to us by this practical state — our 
marriage with the Redeemer of mankind. 

I might safely appeal to every man who hears me, who 
in youth has been accustomed to abandon himself to his 
animal passions, whether when he first really fell in love, 
the earliest symptom was not a complete change in his 
manners, a contempt and a hatred of himself for having 
excused his conduct by asserting, that he acted according 
to the dictates of nature, that his vices were the inevit- 
able consequences of youth, and that his passions at that 
period of life could not be conquered ? The surest friend 
of chastity is love : it leads us, not to sink the mind in 
the body, but to draw up the body to the mind — the 
immortal part of our nature. See how contrasted in this 
respect are some portions of the works of writers, whom I 
need not name, with other portions of the same works : 
the ebullitions of comic humour have at times, by a 
lamentable confusion, been made the means of debasing 
our nature, while at other times, even in the same volume, 
we are happy to notice the utmost purity, such as the 
purity of love, which above all other qualities renders us 
most pure and lovely. 

Love is not, like hunger, a mere selfish appetite : it is 
an associative quality. The hungry savage is nothing but 
an animal, thinking only of the satisfaction of his stomach : 
what is the first effect of love, but to associate the feeling 
with every object in nature ? the trees whisper, the roses 
exhale their perfumes, the nightingales sing, nay the very 
skies smile in unison with the feeling of true and pure 
love. It gives to every object in nature a power of the 
heart, without which it would indeed be spiritless. 

Shakspeare has described this passion in various states 
and stages, beginning, as was most natural, with love in 
the young. Does he open his play by making Romeo 
and Juliet in love at first sight — at the first glimpse, as 
any ordinary thinker would do ? Certainly not : he knew 
what he was about, and how he was to accomplish what 

The Seventh Lecture 433 

he was about : he was to develope the whole passion, and 
he commences with the first elements — that sense of 
imperfection, that yearning to combine itself with some- 
thing lovely. Romeo became enamoured of the idea he 
had formed in his own mind, and then, as it were, christened 
the first real being of the contrary sex as endowed with 
the perfections he desired. He appears to be in love with 
Rosaline ; but, in truth, he is in love only with his own 
idea. He felt that necessity of being beloved which no 
noble mind can be without. Then our poet, our poet 
who so well knew human nature, introduces Romeo to 
Juhet, and makes it not only a violent, but a permanent 
love — a point for which Shakspeare has been ridiculed by 
the ignorant and unthinking. Romeo is first represented 
in a state most susceptible of love, and then, seeing Juliet, 
he took and retained the infection. 

This brings me to observe upon a characteristic of 
Shakspeare, which belongs to a man of profound thought 
and high genius. It has been too much the custom, 
when anything that happened in his dramas could not 
easily be explained by the few words the poet has em- 
ployed, to pass it idly over, and to say that it is beyond 
our reach, and beyond the power of philosophy — a sort 
of terra incognita for discoverers — a great ocean to be 
hereafter explored. Others have treated such passages 
as hints and glimpses of something now non-existent, 
as the sacred fragments of an ancient and ruined temple^ 
all the portions of which are beautiful, although their 
particular relation to each other is unknown. Shak- 
speare knew the human mind, and its most minute and 
intimate workings, and he never introduces a word, or a 
thought, in vain or out of place : if we do not understand 
him, it is our own fault or the fault of copyists and typo- 
graphers ; but study, and the possession of some small 
stock of the knowledge by which he worked, will enable 
us often to detect and explain his meaning. He never 
wrote at random, or hit upon points of character and 
conduct by chance ; and the smallest fragment of his 
mind not unfrequently gives a clue to a most perfect, 
regular, and consistent whole. 

As I may not have another opportunity, the introduc- 
tion of Friar Laurence into this tragedy enables me to 
remark upon the different manner in which Shakspeare 

434 The Seventh Lecture 

has treated the priestly character, as compared with other 
writers. In Beaumont and Fletcher priests are repre- 
sented as a vulgar mockery ; and, as in others of their 
dramatic personages, the errors of a few are mistaken 
for the demeanour of the many : but in Shakspeare they 
always carry with them our love and respect. He made 
no injurious abstracts : he took no copies from the worst 
parts of our nature ; and, like the rest, his characters of 
priests are truly drawn from the general body. 

It may strike some as singular, that throughout all his 
productions he hsis never introduced the passion of avarice. 
The truth is, that it belongs only to particular parts of our 
nature, and is prevalent only in particular states of society ; 
hence it could not, and cannot, be permanent. The Miser 
of Moliere and Plautus is now looked upon as a species of 
madman, and avarice as a species of madness. Elwes, of 
whom everybody has heard, was an individual influenced 
by an insane condition of mind ; but, as a passion, avarice 
has disappeared. How admirably, then, did Shakspeare 
foresee, that if he drew such a character it could not be 
permanent ! he drew characters which would always be 
natural, and therefore permanent, inasmuch as they were 
not dependent upon accidental circumstances. 

There is not one of the plays of Shakspeare that is built 
upon anything but the best and surest foundation ; the 
characters must be permanent — permanent while men 
continue men, — because they stand upon what is absolutely 
necessary to our existence. This cannot be said even of 
some of the most famous authors of antiquity. Take the 
capital tragedies of Orestes, or of the husband of Jocasta : 
great as was the genius of the writers, these dramas have 
an obvious fault, and the fault lies at the very root of the 
action. In (Edipus a man is represented oppressed by fate 
for a crime of which he was not morally guilty ; and while 
we read we are obliged to say to ourselves, that in those 
days they considered actions without reference to the real 
guilt of the persons. 

There is no character in Shakspeare in which envy is 
pourtrayed, with one solitary exception — Cassius, in 
" Julius Caesar " ; yet even there the vice is not hateful, 
inasmuch as it is counterbalanced by a number of excellent 
qualities and virtues. The poet leads the reader to suppose 
that it is rather something constitutional, something 

The Eighth Lecture 435 

derived from his parents, something that he cannot avoid, 
and not something that he has himself acquired ; thus 
throwing the blame from the will of man to some inevitable 
circumstance, and leading us to suppose that it is hardly 
to be looked upon as one of those passions that actually 
debase the mind. 

Whenever love is described as of a serious nature, and 
much more when it is to lead to a tragical result, it depends 
upon a law of the mind, which, I believe, I shall hereafter 
be able to make intelligible, and which would not only 
justify Shakspeare, but show an analogy to all his other 



It is impossible to pay a higher compliment to poetry, 
than to consider the effects it produces in common with 
rehgion, yet distinct (as far as distinction can be, where 
there is no division) in those qualities which religion 
exercises and diffuses over all mankind, as far as they are 
subject to its influence. 

I have often thought that religion (speaking of it only 
as it accords with poetry, without reference to its more 
serious impressions) is the poetry of mankind, both having 
for their objects : — 

1. To generalise our notions ; to prevent men from 
confining their attention solely, or chiefly, to their own 
narrow sphere of action, and to their own individual 
circumstances. By placing them in certain awful relations 
it merges the individual man in the whole species, and 
makes it impossible for any one man to think of his future 
lot, or indeed of his present condition, without at the same 
time comprising in his view his fellow-creatures. 

2. That both poetry and religion throw the object of 
deepest interest to a distance from us, and thereby not 
only aid our imagination, but in a most important manner 
subserve the interest of our virtues ; for that man is indeed 
a slave, who is a slave to his own senses, and whose mind 
and imagination cannot carry him beyond the distance 
which his hand can touch, or even his eye can reach. 

436 The Eighth Lecture 

3. The grandest point of resemblance between them is, 
that both have for their object (I hardly know whether 
the English language supplies an appropriate word) the 
perfecting, and the pointing out to us the indefinite im- 
provement of our nature, and fixing our attention upon 
that. They bid us, while we are sitting in the dark at our 
little fire, look at the mountain-tops, struggling with dark- 
ness, and announcing that light which shall be common to 
all, in which individual interests shall resolve into one 
common good, and every man shall find in his fellow man 
more than a brother. 

Such being the case, we need not wonder that it has 
pleased Providence, that the divine truths of religion 
should have been revealed to us in the form of poetry ; 
and that at all times poets, not the slaves of any particular 
sectarian opinions, should have joined to support all those 
delicate sentiments of the heart (often when they were 
most opposed to the reigning philosophy of the day) which 
may be called the feeding streams of religion. 

I have heard it said that an undevout astronomer is mad. 
In the strict sense of the word, every being capable of under- 
standing must be mad, who remains, as it were, fixed in 
the ground on which he treads — who, gifted with the 
divine faculties of indefinite hope and fear, born with them, 
yet settles his faith upon that, in which neither hope nor 
fear has any proper field for display. Much more truly, 
however, might it be said that, an undevout poet is mad : 
in the strict sense of the word, an undevout poet is an 
impossibility. I have heard of verse-makers (poets they 
are not, and never can be) who introduced into their works 
such questions as these : — Whether the world was made of 
atoms ? — Whether there is a universe ? — Whether there is 
a governing mind that supports it ? As I have said, verse- 
makers are not poets : the poet is one who carries the sim- 
plicity of childhood into the powers of manhood ; who, 
with a soul unsubdued by habit, unshackled by custom, 
contemplates all things with the freshness and the wonder 
of a child ; and, connecting with it the inquisitive powers 
of riper years, adds, as far as he can find knowledge, admira- 
tion ; and, where knowledge no longer permits admiration, 
gladly sinks back again into the childlike feeling of devout 

The poet is not only the man made to solve the riddle 

The Eighth Lecture 437 

of the universe, but he is also the man who feels where it 
is not solved. What is old and worn-out, not in itself, but 
from the dimness of the intellectual eye, produced by 
worldly passions and pursuits, he makes new : he pours 
upon it the dew that glistens, and blows round it the breeze 
that cooled us in our infancy. I hope, therefore, that if 
in this single lecture I make some demand on the attention 
of my hearers to a most important subject, upon which 
depends all sense of the worthiness or unworthiness of our 
nature, I shall obtain their pardon. If I afford them less 
amusement, I trust that their own reflections upon a few 
thoughts will be found to repay them. 

I have been led to these observations by the tragedy 
of " Romeo and Juliet," and by some, perhaps, indiscreet 
expressions, certainly not well chosen, concerning falling 
in love at first sight. I have taken one of Shakspeare's 
earliest works, as I consider it, in order to show that he, 
of all his contemporaries (Sir Philip Sidney alone excepted), 
entertained a just conception of the female character. 
Unquestionably, that gentleman of Europe — that all- 
accomplished man, and our beloved Shakspeare, were the 
only writers of that age, who pitched their ideas of female 
perfection according to the best researches of philosophy : 
compared with all who followed them, they stand as mighty 
mountains, the islands of a deluge, which has swallowed all 
the rest in the flood of oblivion. ^ 

I certainly do not mean, as a general maxim, to justify so 
foolish a thing as what goes by the name of love at first 
sight ; but, to express myself more accurately, I should 
say that there is, and has always existed, a deep emotion 
of the mind, which might be called love momentaneous — 
not love at first sight, nor known by the subject of it to be 
or to have been such, but after many years of experience. ^ 

I have to defend the existence of love, as a passion in 

1 1 remember, in conversing on this very point at a subsequent period, — I cannot fix 
the date, — Coleridge made a willing exception in favour of Spenser ; but he added that 
the notions of the author of the ' ' Faery Queen " were often so romantic and heightened 
by fancy, thai he could not look upon Spenser's females as creatures of our world ; 
whereas the ladies of Shakspeare and Sidney were flesh and blood, with their very 
defects and qualifications giving evidence of their humanity : hence the lively interest 
taken regarding them. — J. P. C. 

2 Coleridge here made a reference to, and cited a passage from, Hooker's "Ecclesi- 
astical Polity ; " but my note contains only a hint regarding it ; and the probability is, 
that I did not insert more of it, because I thought I should be able, at some future 
time, to procure the exact words, or a reference to them, from the Lecturer. 
Whether I did so or not I cannot remember, but I fiud no trace of anything of the 
kind.— J. P. C. 

438 The Eighth Lecture 

itself fit and appropriate to human nature ; — I say fit for 
human nature, and not only so, but peculiar to it, unshared 
either in degree or kind by any of our fellow creatures : it 
is a passion which it is impossible for any creature to feel, 
but a being endowed with reason, with the moral sense, 
and with the strong yearnings, which, like all other power- 
ful effects in nature, prophesy some future effect. 

If I were to address myself to the materialist, with 
reference to the human kind, and (admitting the three 
great laws common to all beings, — i, the law of self -pre- 
servation ; 2, that of continuing the race ; and 3, the care 
of the offspring till protection is no longer needed), — were 
to ask him, whether he thought any motives of prudence or 
duty enforced the simple necessity of preserving the race ? 
or whether, after a course of serious reflection, he came to 
the conclusion, that it would be better to have a posterity, 
from a sense of duty impelling us to seek that as our object ? 
— if, I say, I were to ask a materialist, whether such was the 
real cause of the preservation of the species, he would laugh 
me to scorn ; he would say that nature was too wise to 
trust any of her great designs to the mere cold calculations 
of fallible mortality. 

Then the question comes to a short crisis : — Is, or is not, 
our moral nature a part of the end of Providence ? or are 
we, or are we not, beings meant for society ? Is that 
society, or is it not, meant to be progressive ? I trust that 
none of my auditors would endure the putting of the 
question — Whether, independently of the progression of 
the race, every individual has it not in his power to be in- 
definitely progressive ? — for, without marriage, without 
exclusive attachment, there could be no human society ; 
herds, as I said, there might be, but society there could not 
be : there could be none of that delightful intercourse 
between father and child ; none of the sacred affections ; 
none of the charities of humanity ; none of all those many 
and complex causes, which have raised us to the state we 
have already reached, could possibly have existence. All 
these effects are not found among the brutes ; neither are 
they found among savages, whom strange accidents have 
sunk below the class of human beings, insomuch that a stop 
seems actually to have been put to their progressiveness. 

We may, therefore, safely conclude that there is placed 
within us some element, if I may so say, of our nature—- 

The Eighth Lecture 439 

something which is as pecuHar to our moral nature, as any 
other part can be conceived to be, name it what you will, — 
name it, I will say for illustration, devotion, — name it 
friendship, or a sense of duty ; but something there is, 
peculiar to our nature, which answers the moral end ; as 
we find everywhere in the ends of the moral world, that 
there are proportionate material and bodily means of 
accomplishing them. 

We are born, and it is our nature and lot to be composed 
of body and mind ; but when our heart leaps up on hearing 
of the victories of our country, or of the rescue of the 
virtuous, but unhappy, from the hands of an oppressor ; 
when a parent is transported at the restoration of a beloved 
child from deadly sickness ; when the pulse is quickened, 
from any of these or other causes, do we therefore say, 
because the body interprets the emotions of the mind and 
sympathises with them, asserting its claim to participation, 
that joy is not mental, or that it is not moral ? Do we 
assert, that it was owing merely to fulness of blood that the 
heart throbbed, and the pulse played ? Do we not rather 
say, that the regent, the mind, being glad, its slave, its 
willing slave, the body, responded to it, and obeyed the 
impulse ? If we are possessed with a feeling of having 
done a wrong, or of having had a wrong done to us, and it 
excites the blush of shame or the glow of anger, do we pre- 
tend to say that, by some accident, the blood suffused itself 
into veins unusually small, and therefore that the guilty 
seemed to evince shame, or the injured indignation ? In 
these things we scorn such instruction ; and shall it be 
deemed a sufficient excuse for the materialist to degrade 
that passion, on which not only many of our virtues depend, 
but upon which the whole frame, the whole structure of 
human society rests ? Shall we pardon him this debase- 
ment of love, because our body has been united to mind by 
Providence, in order, not to reduce the high to the level of 
the low, but to elevate the low to the level of the high ? We 
should be guilty of nothing less than an act of moral 
suicide, if we consented to degrade that which on every 
account is most noble, by merging it in what is most de- 
rogatory : as if an angel were to hold out to us the welcom- 
ing hand of brotherhood, and we turned away from it, to 
wallow, as it were, with the hog in the mire. 

One of the most lofty and intellectual of the poets 

440 The Eighth Lecture 

of the time of Shakspeare has described this degradation 
most wonderfully, where he speaks of a man, who, having 
been converted by the witchery of worldly pleasure and 
passion, into a hog, on being restored to his human shape 
still preferred his bestial condition : — 

" But one, above the rest in special, 
That had a hog been late, hight Grill by name. 
Repined greatly, and did him miscall. 

" Said Guyon, See the mind of beastly man ! 
That hath so soon forgot the excellence 
Of his creation, when he life began, 
That now he chooseth, with vile difference, 
To be a beast and lack intelligence. 
To whom the Palmer thus : — The dunghill kind 
Delights in filth and foul incontinence : 
Let Grill be Grill, and have his hoggish mind ; 
But let us hence depart, whilst weather serves and wind." 

Faiyy Queen, Book ii., c. 12. 

The first feeling that would strike a reflecting mind, 
wishing to see mankind not only in an amiable but in a 
just hght, would be that beautiful feeling in the moral 
world, the brotherly and sisterly affections, — the existence 
of strong affection greatly modified by the difference of 
sex ; made more tender, more graceful, more soothing 
and conciliatory by the circumstance of difference, yet 
still remaining perfectly pure, perfectly spiritual. How 
glorious, we may say, would be the effect, if the instances 
were rare ; but how much more glorious, when they are 
so frequent as to be only not universal. This species of 
affection is the object of religious veneration with all 
those who love their fellow men, or who know themselves. 

The power of education over the human mind is herein 
exemplified, and data for hope are afforded of yet un- 
realised excellences, perhaps dormant in our nature. 
When we see so divine a moral effect spread through all 
classes, what may we not hope of other excellences, of 
unknown quahty, still to be developed ? 

By dividing the sisterly and fraternal affections from 
the conjugal, we have, in truth, two loves, each of them as 
strong as any affection can be, or ought to be, consistently 
with the performance of our duty, and the love we should 
bear to our neighbour. Then, by the former preceding 

The Eighth Lecture 441 

the latter, the latter is rendered more pure, more even, 
and more constant : the wife has already learned the 
discipline of pure love in the character of a sister. By 
the discipline of private life she has already learned how 
to yield, how to influence, how to command. To all 
this are to be added the beautiful gradations of attachment 
which distinguish human nature ; — from sister to wife, 
from wife to child, to uncle, to cousin, to one of our kin, 
to one of our blood, to our near neighbour, to our county- 
man, and to our countryman. 

The bad results of a want of this variety of orders, of 
this graceful subordination in the character of attachment, 
I have often observed in Italy in particular, as well as in 
other countries, where the young are kept secluded, not 
only from their neighbours, but from their own families — 
all closely imprisoned, until the hour when they are 
necessarily let out of their cages, without having had 
the opportunity of learning to fly — without experience, 
restrained by no kindly feeling, and detesting the control 
which so long kept them from enjoying the full hubbub 
of licence. 

The question is. How have nature and Providence 
secured these blessings to us ? In this way : — that in 
general the affections become those which urge us to leave 
the paternal nest. We arrive at a definite time of Ufe, 
and feel passions that invite us to enter into the world ; 
and this new feeling assuredly coalesces with a new object. 
Suppose we are under the influence of a vivid feeling that 
is new to us : that feeling will more firmly combine with 
an external object, which is likewise vivid from novelty, 
than with one that is familiar. 

To this may be added the aversion, which seems to 
have acted very strongly in rude ages, concerning anything 
common to us and to the animal creation. That which 
is done by beasts man feels a natural repugnance to 
imitate. The desire to extend the bond of relationship, 
in families which had emigrated from the patriarchal seed, 
would likewise have its influence. 

All these circumstances would render the marriage of 
brother and sister unfrequent, and in simple ages an 
ominous feeling to the contrary might easily prevail. 
Some tradition might aid the objections to such a union ; 
and, for aught we know, some law might be preserved 

442 The Eighth Lecture 

in the Temple of Isis, and from thence obtained by the 
patriarchs, which would augment the horror attached to 
such connexions. This horror once felt, and soon propa- 
gated, the present state of feeling on the subject can 
easily be explained. 

Children begin as early to talk of marriage as of death, 
from attending a wedding, or following a funeral : a new 
young visitor is introduced into the family, and from 
association they soon think of the conjugal bond. If a 
boy tell his parent that he wishes to marry his sister, he 
is instantly checked by a stern look, and he is shewn the 
impossibility of such a union. The controlling glance of 
the parental eye is often more effectual, than any form of 
words that could be employed ; and in mature years 
a mere look often prevails where exhortation would have 
failed. As to infants, they are told, without any reason 
assigned, that it could not be so ; and perhaps the best 
security for moral rectitude arises from a supposed 
necessity. Ignorant persons recoil from the thought 
of doing anything that has not been done, and because 
they have always been informed that it must not be 

The individual has by this time learned the greatest and 
best lesson of the human mind — that in ourselves we are 
imperfect ; and another truth, of the next, if not of equal, 
importance — that there exists a possibility of uniting two 
beings, each identified in their nature, but distinguished 
in their separate qualities, so that each should retain what 
distinguishes them, and at the same time each acquire the 
qualities of that being which is contradistinguished. This 
is perhaps the most beautiful part of our nature : the man 
loses not his manly character : he does not become less 
brave or less resolved to go through fire and water, if 
necessary, for the object of his affections : rather say, 
that he becomes far more brave and resolute. He then 
feels the beginnings of his moral nature : he then is 
sensible of its imperfection, and of its perfectibility. All 
the grand and sublime thoughts of an improved state of 
being then dawn upon him : he can acquire the patience 
of woman, which in him is fortitude : the beauty and 
susceptibility of the female character in him becomes a 
desire to display all that is noble and dignified. In short, 
the only true resemblance to a couple thus united is the 

The Eighth Lecture 443 

pure sky blue of heaven : the female unites the beautiful 
with the sublime, and the male the sublime with the 

Throughout the whole of his plays Shakspeare has 
evidently looked at the subject of love in this dignified 
light : he has conceived it not only with moral grandeur, 
but with philosophical penetration. The mind of man 
searches for something which shall add to his perfection 
— which shall assist him, ; and he also yearns to lend his 
aid in completing the moral nature of another. Thoughts 
like these will occupy many of his serious moments : 
imagination will accumulate on imagination, until at last 
some object attracts his attention, and to this object 
the whole weight and impulse of his feelings will be 

Who shall say this is not love ? Here is system, but it 
is founded upon nature : here are associations ; here are 
strong feelings, natural to us as men, and they are directed 
and finally attached to one object : — who shall say this 
is not love ? Assuredly not the being who is the subject 
of these sensations. — If it be not love, it is only known 
that it is not by Him who knows all things. Shakspeare 
has therefore described Romeo as in love in the first 
instance with Rosaline, and so completely does he fancy 
himself in love that he declares, before he has seen Juliet, 

" When the devout religion of mine eye 
Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires ; 

And these, who, often drown'd, could never die. 
Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars. 

One fairer than my love ? the all-seeing sun 

Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun." 

Act I., Scene i. 

This is in answer to Benvolio, who has asked Romeo to 
compare the supposed beauty of Rosaline with the actual 
beauty of other ladies ; and in this full feeling of confidence 
Romeo is brought to Capulet's, as it were by accident : he 
sees Juliet, instantly becomes the heretic he has just before 
declared impossible, and then commences that complete- 
ness of attachment which forms the whole subject of the 

Surely Shakspeare, the poet, the philosopher, who com- 
bined truth with beauty and beauty with truth, never 
dreamed that he could interest his auditory in favour 

444 The Eighth Lecture 

of Romeo, by representing him as a mere weather-cock, 
blown round by every woman's breath ; who, having 
seen one, became the victim of melancholy, eating his 
own heart, concentrating all his hopes and fears in her, 
and yet, in an instant, changing, and falling madly in love 
with another. Shakspeare must have meant something 
more than this, for this was the way to make people 
despise, instead of admiring his hero. Romeo tells us 
what was Shakspeare's purpose : he shows us that he 
had looked at Rosaline with a different feeling from that 
with which he had looked at Juliet. Rosaline was the 
object to which his over-full heart had attached itself in 
the first instance : our imperfect nature, in proportion as 
our ideas are vivid, seeks after something in which those 
ideas may be realised. 

So with the indiscreet friendships sometimes formed by 
men of genius : they are conscious of their own weakness, 
and are ready to believe others stronger than themselves, 
when, in truth, they are weaker : they have formed an 
ideal in their own minds, and they want to see it realised ; 
they require more than shadowy thought. Their own 
sense of imperfection makes it impossible for them to 
fasten their attachment upon themselves, and hence the 
humility of men of true genius : in, perhaps, the first 
man they meet, they only see what is good ; they have 
no sense of his deficiencies, and their friendship becomes 
.so strong, that they almost fall down and worship one in 
every respect greatly their inferior. 

What is true of friendship is true of love, with a person 
of ardent feelings and warm imagination. What took 
place in the mind of Romeo was merely natural ; it is 
accordant with every day's experience. Amid such 
various events, such shifting scenes, such changing person- 
ages, we are often mistaken, and discover that he or she 
was not what we hoped and expected ; we find that the 
individual first chosen will not complete our imperfection ; 
we may have suffered unnecessary pangs, and have indulged 
idly-directed hopes, and then a being may arise before 
us, who has more resemblance to the ideal we have formed. 
We know that we loved the earlier object with ardour 
and purity, but it was not what we feel for the later object. 
Our own mind tells us, that in the first instance we merely 
yearned after an object, but in the last instance we know 

The Ninth Lecture 445 

that we have found that object, and that it corresponds 
with the idea we had previously formed. 

[Here my original notes abruptly break off: the brochure in which I had inserted 
them was full, and I took another for the conclusion of the Lecture, which is 
unfortunately lost.] 


It is a known but unexplained phenomenon, that among 
the ancients statuary rose to such a degree of perfection, 
as almost to baffle the hope of imitating it, and to render 
the chance of excelling it absolutely impossible ; yet 
painting, at the same period, notwithstanding the admira- 
tion bestowed upon it by Pliny and others, has been proved 
to be an art of much later growth, as it was also of far 
inferior quality. I remember a man of high rank, equally 
admirable for his talents and his taste, pointing to a 
common sign-post, and saying that had Titian never lived, 
the richness of representation by colour, even there, would 
never have been attained. In that mechanical branch of 
painting, perspective, it has been shown that the Romans 
were very deficient. The excavations and consequent 
discoveries, at Herculaneum and elsewhere, prove the 
Roman artists to have been guilty of such blunders, as 
to give plausibility to the assertions of those who maintain 
that the ancients were whoUy ignorant of perspective. 
However, that they knew something of it is established by 
Vitruvius in the introduction to his second book. 

Something of the same kind, as I endeavoured to explain 
in a previous lecture, was the cause with the drama of the 
ancients, which has been imitated by the French, Italians, 
and by various writers in England since the Restoration. 
AU that is there represented seems to be, as it were, upon 
one fiat surface : the theme,^ if we may so call it in refer- 
ence to music, admits of nothing more than the change of a 
single note, and excludes that which is the true principle 
of life — the attaining of the same result by an infinite 
variety of means. 

The plays of Shakspeare are in no respect imitations 

1 Here occurs another evident mistake of mine, in my original short-hand note, in 
consequence of mishearing : I hastily wrote scheme, instead of " theme," which last 
must have been the word of the Lecturer. 

446 The Ninth Lecture 

of the Greeks : they may be called analogies, because by 
very different means they arrive at the same end ; whereas 
the French and Italian tragedies I have read, and the 
English ones on the same model, are mere copies, though 
they cannot be called likenesses, seeking the same effect 
by adopting the same means, but under most inappro- 
priate and adverse circumstances. 

I have thus been led to consider, that the ancient drama 
(meaning the works of iEschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, 
for the rhetorical productions of the same class by the 
Romans are scarcely to be treated as original theatrical 
poems) might be contrasted with the Shakspearean drama. 
— I call it the Shakspearean drama to distinguish it, 
because I know of no other writer who has realised the same 
idea, although I am told by some, that the Spanish poets, 
Lopez de Vega and Calderon, have been equally successful. 
The Shakspearean drama and the Greek drama may be 
compared to statuary and painting. In statuary, as in the 
Greek drama, the characters must be few, because the very 
essence of statuary is a high degree of abstraction, which 
prevents a great many figures being combined in the same 
effect. In a grand group of Niobe, or in any other ancient 
heroic subject, how disgusting even it would appear, if an 
old nurse were introduced. Not only the number of figures 
must be circumscribed, but nothing undignified must be 
placed in company with what is dignified : no one 
personage must be brought in that is not an abstraction : 
all the actors in the scene must not be presented at once 
to the eye ; and the effect of multitude, if required, must 
be produced without the intermingling of anything 

Compare this smaU group with a picture by Raphael or 
Titian, in which an immense number of figures may be 
introduced, a beggar, a cripple, a dog, or a cat ; and by a 
less degree of labour, and a less degree of abstraction, an 
effect is produced equally harmonious to the mind, more 
true to nature with its varied colours, and, in all respects 
but one, superior to statuary. The man of taste feels 
satisfied, and to that which the reason conceives possible, 
a momentary reahty is given by the aid of imagination. 

I need not here repeat what I have said before, regard- 
ing the circumstances which permitted Shakspeare to make 
an alteration, not merely so suitable to the age in which he 

The Ninth Lecture 447 

lived, but, in fact, so necessitated by the condition of that 
age. I need not again remind you of the difference I 
pointed out between imitation and Ukeness, in reference to 
the attempt to give reahty to representations on the stage. 
The distinction between imitation and Ukeness depends 
upon the admixture of circumstances of dissimilarity ; 
an imitation is not a copy, p